19 September 2017

Namibia: President, UN Chief Talk North Korea

Photo: President Hage Geingob/Facebook
President Hage Geingob (file photo).

Windhoek — President Hage Geingob on Sunday met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the General Assembly currently underway in New York, USA and discussed a wide range of issues, among them Namibian relations with sanctions-ridden North Korea.

The two leaders met amidst the UN's recent accusations - trumpeted by the USA - that Namibia was defying the international body's directive that Windhoek cut trade ties with North Korea, amidst economic sanctions imposed on the East Asian country.

Some North Korean companies were allocated multi-million dollar government infrastructure development contracts in Namibia, but the government maintains it has complied with the UN requirements by terminating those contracts.

Namibia was figured in a recent leaked confidential report by the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea as one of several countries still doing business with North Korea - a claim dismissed by international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah last week in New York.

"In order to satisfy the sanctions committee [of the United Nations Security Council], we have invited them to come to Namibia any time to show them that we have complied," she was quoted by Nampa as saying.

The sanctions against North Korea are a result of supposed non-compliance to basic human rights principles and nuclear armament by that country.

Geingob's press secretary Albertus Aochamub was yesterday reluctant to divulge the content of the discussion the president had with the UN chief, but it was widely expected the issue of North Korea would feature in the conversation.

"It was a very good and courteous meeting that covered wide ground," he said.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to impose trade sanctions against countries that are doing business with North Korea.

Trump's threat came after Japan took a decision to freeze the assets of six businesses that include two Namibian entities for their ties with North Korea.

New Era recently reported that a Windhoek-based North Korean businessman and a Namibian-registered construction company were blacklisted and sanctioned by both the US Treasury and the Japanese government late last month. Recently, Namibia's Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi told editors during a courtesy meeting at State House that allegations made against Namibia over her relations with Pyongyang were devoid of any truth.

"We got the process off the ground as soon as the UN directed us to do so and a good number of North Koreans have left the country as a result of this process," he said.

"We had no choice but to comply with the UN as a member state. Some of the North Koeran companies whose services were terminated threatened us with lawsuits and we told them it was not our decision but the UN's," he told editors.

New Era understands that construction of the Namibian ministry of defence headquarters was among projects halted halfway in order to comply with the UN requirements.

Last year Nandi-Ndaitwah visited North Korea to explain the situation Namibia found herself in regarding the UN directive. In a message delivered on his behalf to North Korean authorities, President Geingob said Namibia values the long-standing relationship between the peoples of both countries, but in view of the UN Security Council resolution they do not have a choice in the matter.

During the Namibian war of independence, North Korea provided significant support for the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Swapo's armed wing.

Many Swapo members received military training in that country from 1965 onwards and - after independence - Founding President Sam Nujoma received the Order of the National Flag, a high North Korean decoration.


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