WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- The United States allowed Ethiopia to buy arms secretly from North Korea in January, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The arms deal, three months after the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear program, occurred as Ethiopia was involved in fighting the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia. The Bush administration apparently let its desire to drive Islamic radicals out of the Somalia take precedence over isolating North Korea, the newspaper said.
U.S. officials, speaking anonymously, said Ethiopia promised it would look for different suppliers.
"The Ethiopians came back to us and said, 'Look, we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can't do that overnight,'" said one official. "They pledged to work with us at the most senior levels."
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton attributed the U.S. approval partly to State Department "clientitis," with diplomats becoming too close to the countries they work with. He said Washington should have forced Ethiopia to forgo the North Korean arms to show how strongly the United States felt on the nuclear issue.