SINGAPORE, March 15 (NNN-CNA) — North Korean officials made a study trip to Singapore’s port in a move that “may have been a sanction violation”, according to a report by United Nations panel of experts.
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The 378-page report, dated March 5, detailed the panel’s findings related to North Korea sanctions and possible violations. In the report, experts flagged the visit by officials from North Korea’s Nampo port to Singapore.
“On Oct 12, 2018, a Member State informed the panel that ‘there may have been a sanction violation in Singapore’ relating to a scientific or technical training project between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Singapore that included a study visit to Singapore’s port by Nampo port officials,” said the panel.
It noted that Nampo has been suspected of being used for illegal activity, citing imagery showing how the port has been used for loading prohibited exports of coal from North Korea.
“Blatant violations such as these can occur only with the full knowledge and cooperation of Nampo port officials,” said the report.
The UN panel experts said it had sent a letter to Singapore noting the “systemic violations” of the resolutions taking place at Nampo. In the letter, it also mentioned that according to previous reports by the panel, the port was also the site for exporting or importing items that violated measures aimed at stemming nuclear, ballistic missile and other arms-related materials.
Singapore replied to the panel on Dec 4 last year to confirm that Kang Jong Gwan, North Korea’s Minister of Land and Maritime Transport – who oversees the country’s port, shipping and vessel operations – had headed a delegation to Singapore, the panel said in the report.
In its reply, Singapore stated that it “had verified that the delegation members were not individuals designated by the UN”, said the panel.
The report also flagged Mercedes-Benz limousines used by North Korea during the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore in June last year.
Investigations are ongoing into Mercedes-Benz limousines shipped to North Korea, said the panel, in light of a luxury goods ban to the country, adding that efforts are ongoing to determine the vehicle’s identification numbers and whether any had been altered.
It is illegal to directly or indirectly supply luxury goods to North Korea under UN sanctions.
“A number of these Mercedes-Benz were observed without licence plates during meetings in Singapore, Beijing and Pyongyang and were utilised by at least one foreign head of State in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2018,” said the panel.
“The panel wrote to Singapore and China to request the vehicle identification number records following the temporary transfers of these vehicles, or checks by the Presidential Security Service of the Republic of Korea, the head of which was reported as a passenger in one of the vehicles.”
Singapore responded to say that “it had requested for the vehicles’ chassis and engine numbers, but the DPRK officials declined to reveal this information due to national security reasons”, said the panel.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia that the Singapore Government had “duly notified” the UN Sanctions Committee in advance of the visit by the North Korean port officials.
The study visit for the North Korean port authorities was a specific follow-up from the Trump-Kim summit and “would in no way contribute to the DPRK’s proliferation activities and did not involve UN-designated individuals”, said MFA.
On the issue of the Mercedes-Benz vehicles, MFA said that Singapore had been granted a general exemption by the UN Sanctions Committee from sanctions for activities associated with the summit.
After the summit, said MFA, Singapore gave the Committee details of the individuals in the North Korean delegation, and the items brought into and out of Singapore by them for the purposes of the summit.
“In both cases, the necessary due diligence and processes were followed to ensure that no sanctions were violated,” said MFA, adding that it had “promptly addressed” the panel’s queries last year.
“Singapore takes our obligations under the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) seriously and fully and faithfully implements them. Singapore has laws to operationalise the UNSCRs, and our authorities will not hesitate to take action on any Singaporean companies or individuals found to have violated them,” it added. — NNN-CNA