Singapore warns action against those who continue to trade with North Korea off its shores

Recently-imposed rules prohibit all commercial imports, exports, transshipment and transit of goods to or from North Korea through Singapore. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Singapore has said it "will not hesitate" to investigate and take action against anyone found guilty of flouting recently imposed rules to suspend all trade with North Korea.

In an e-mail to The Straits Times, the Singapore Customs said it has adopted several new sanctions "in rapid succession" this year, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) imposed on North Korea for its repeated nuclear and missile provocations that drove tensions sky high in the region.

The latest move, which took effect on Nov 8, prohibits all commercial imports, exports, transshipment and transit of goods to or from North Korea through Singapore.

Those who break the law can be fined up to S$100,000 or three times the value of the goods traded, jailed for up to two years, or both.

"Individuals and entities in Singapore are not allowed to conduct activities that violate our laws which give effect to the UNSCRs on the DPRK," said the Customs spokesman, referring to North Korea's official name.

"We will investigate any wrongdoing by individuals or entities in Singapore, and will not hesitate to take action against those found guilty of wrongdoing."

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 the North's sixth-largest trading partner in 2015, with bilateral trade reaching US$29 million (S$39.3 million). Thailand was the fourth-largest trade partner, after China, Russia and India.

As the United States started rallying global support in imposing UN sanctions on the Kim Jong Un regime to pressure it to abandon its nuclear weapons, Singapore has also been doing its part to cut back on links with Pyongyang.

The Philippines has also suspended trade with the North, while Thailand's trade with the regime has fallen by 94 per cent.

"Singapore implements its obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolutions fully and faithfully," said a Customs spokesman. "We constantly review and update our legislation to give full effect to the UNSCRs."

The spokesman added that they would issue circulars and organise seminars and industry outreach activities to keep businesses updated with changes in Singapore's regulations.

The trade suspension came more than two months after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Singaporeans to avoid non-essential travel to North Korea following Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test on Sept 3.

Singapore has no mission in Pyongyang, though North Korea maintains an embassy in the city state.

North Koreans have been required to get a visa to enter Singapore since October last year.

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