Singapore suspends trade ties with North Korea
Singapore has suspended all trade with North Korea, becoming the latest South-east Asian nation to cut economic ties with the state in line with toughened sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
The Singapore Customs posted a circular on its website last week informing traders that "all commercially traded goods that are imported, exported, transhipped or brought in transit" through Singapore to and from North Korea will be prohibited from Nov 8.
It warned that first-time offenders can be fined up to $100,000 or three times the value of the goods traded, jailed for up to two years, or both.
Analysts said the move was timely and in line with international consensus to resolve North Korea's nuclear issue with economic sanctions.
The US, meanwhile, is rallying global support to put pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime to end provocations and abandon its nuclear weapons.
Dr Graham Ong-Webb, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Singapore has been gradually registering its disapproval and tightening sanctions while leaving "room for dialogue and a face-saving way out".
"In light of (North Korea's) continuance of its illicit nuclear ambitions, our decision to completely suspend commercial trade with North Korea communicates that the stakes on the issue are becoming even higher, and that we cannot make our disapproval clearer than this," he said.
Singapore, like most Asean countries, has diplomatic ties with both Koreas.
The 10-member bloc ranks among North Korea's major trading partners.
Singapore was North Korea's sixth largest trading partner in 2015, with bilateral trade reaching US$29 million (S$39 million). Thailand was the fourth largest, after China, Russia and India.
Sentiments began to turn against North Korea after its leader's half-brother Kim Jong Nam was murdered in Malaysia in February. It is widely believed that Pyongyang orchestrated the assassination.
Malaysia, which bought RM20.6 million (S$6.7 million) worth of goods from North Korea in the first five months of the year, has since halted all imports from the regime.
The Philippines has also suspended trade links. Thailand's bilateral trade with the North, which reached US$50 million in 2015, has plunged by 94 per cent.
Singapore's decision to cut economic ties with Pyongyang was welcomed by South Korean analysts.
"This is quite a significant withdrawal of support by Singapore as part of Asean," said Dr Bong Young Shik of Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies.
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOSE HONG IN SINGAPORE