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Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country's nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials.

The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopia was in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the American policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.
[T]he arms deal is an example of the compromises that result from the clash of two foreign policy absolutes: the Bush administration's commitment to fighting Islamic radicalism and its effort to starve the North Korean government of money it could use to build up its nuclear weapons program.
-- "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 American official, who added that the issue had been handled properly. "They pledged to work with us at the most senior levels."

-- "They really are one of the larger conventional arms purchasers from North Korea, and we're pressing them hard and saying, 'Let's get you out of that business,'" said the American official.

-- "There was a lot going on at that particular moment in time," said the senior American official. "They seem to have the readiness to do the right thing."
Isaac Chotiner