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officials believe the guns were probably looted from stocks sold to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi years earlier.

Still other customers look to North Korea as one of the last suppliers of low-cost parts and ammunition for older weapons systems that are scarcely found in commercial markets.

Sensing an opportunity, North Korea obtained licenses to manufacture replicas of Soviet and Chinese weapons, ranging from assault rifles and artillery rockets to naval frigates and battle tanks.

Arms factories sprouted in the 1960s that soon produced enough weapons to supply North Korea’s vast military, as well as a surplus that could be sold for cash.

intelligence agencies spotted the vessel and alerted Egyptian authorities through diplomatic channels — essentially forcing them to take action — said current and former U.

Even as the United States and its allies pile on the sanctions, Kim continues to quietly reap profits from selling cheap conventional weapons and military hardware to a list of customers and beneficiaries that has at times included Iran, Burma, Cuba, Syria, Eritrea and at least two terrorist groups, as well as key U.

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“The vessel’s automatic identification system was off for the majority of the voyage,” the report said, “except in busy sea lanes where such behavior could be noticed and assessed as a safety threat.” Still, a 300-foot-long freighter big enough to hold 2,400 passenger cars is not easily concealed.

A mysterious online weapons vendor called Glocom — jokingly dubbed the “Samsung of North Korean proliferators” by some Western investigators — began posting slick videos hawking a variety of wares ranging from military radios to guidance systems for drones, never mentioning North Korea as the source.

Asked about the boxes, the crew produced a bill of lading listing the contents, in awkward English, as “assembly parts of the underwater pump.” But after the last of the 79 crates was unloaded and opened at Egypt’s al-Adabiyah port, it was clear that this was a weapons shipment like none other: more than 24,000 rocket-propelled grenades, and completed components for 6,000 more.

It also shed light on a little-understood global arms trade that has become an increasingly vital financial lifeline for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the wake of unprecedented economic sanctions.

] A statement from the Egyptian Embassy in Washington pointed to Egypt’s “transparency” and cooperation with U.

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