April 27th, 2009
Given the change in Soviet policy toward Ethiopia, Addis Ababa’s relations with North Korea took on added importance as the 1990s began. There was little information on the nature and scope of North Korean military assistance to Ethiopia, but most Western military observers agreed that it would be impossible for North Korea to duplicate the quantity and quality of weapons that the Soviet Union had been providing to the Mengistu regime. Nonetheless, beginning in 1985 P’yngyang deployed hundreds of military advisers to Ethiopia and provided an array of small arms, ammunition, and other matériel to the Mengistu regime.
In November 1985, North Korea provided Ethiopia a 6 million birr interest-free loan to be used to purchase equipment with which to construct a shipyard on Haleb Island, off Aseb. Planners expected the shipyard to produce wooden-hulled and steelhulled craft ranging in size from 5,000 to 150,000 tons displacement. (As of 1991, the shipyard had not been completed.) North Korea also had paid for the training of a 20,000-man special operations force at the Tatek military camp.