Uganda tells North Koreans to go back home

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Uganda tells North Koreans to go back home

Uganda has told North Korean military and police personnel stationed there to go home, according to multiple diplomatic sources.

One diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda asked about 10 North Korean military training officials and another group of 40 police personnel stationed there to leave the country. No deadline was specified by the source.

Another source said Museveni had diplomatically told the North Koreans that his government no longer required their aid and cooperation in the field of national security and military strategy. Both sources asked not to be named, given the classified nature of the information.

If true, Museveni’s decision to drive North Koreans out of his country comes just a week after he promised visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye that he would honor UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea approved in March, which bars Pyongyang from having any military links with foreign countries, including weapons trade and training deals. The South Korean government estimates about 50 North Korean military and police training officials were staying in Uganda as of February 2016.

A UN Panel of Experts report submitted to the UN Security Council on Feb. 24, 2016, also confirmed that Uganda had police and military cooperation with the North. According to the report, Uganda confirmed that until last December, North Korea provided training for 45 of its police officers, including 19 security instructors for paramilitary police.

Uganda’s fast follow-through to the Park-Museveni summit in the capital city of Kampala on May 29 is seen by South Korean officials as a coup for Park. Her state visit to the African nation was the first of its kind since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1963.

Uganda’s withdrawal of support and cooperation with North Korea is viewed as a slap in the face for Pyongyang, which has maintained a longstanding partnership with the landlocked African nation of 37 million.

Pyongyang’s dispatch of military and police instructors to train officials in far-flung countries like Uganda has been a source of hard currency, which the Communist nation now sees rapidly dwindling under the latest UN sanctions that followed its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range ballistic missile launch in February.

Museveni, in power since 1986, cultivated a close relationship with former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, the late state founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong-un, during visits to Pyongyang in 1987, 1990 and 1992.

North Korea has not responded to Uganda’s decision to cut military and security ties.

The report on Uganda’s notification to North Koreans to leave the country came a day after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul confirmed that the Polish government had decided not to issue any new work visas for North Koreans this year, relieving the Pyongyang regime of another source of income.

The South Korean government is making headway in forging closer relations with Uganda as it turns its back on its longtime friend.

“A Ugandan military official in charge of the intelligence bureau is scheduled to visit South Korea next week,” a ruling Saenuri Party official said on the condition of anonymity, “and will discuss ways to further military cooperation between the two nations.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU, JEONG YONG-SOO [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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