No sanctions violated in North Korean officials’ port visit to Singapore, says Foreign Affairs Ministry

A United Nations report highlighted two Mercedes-Benz limousines used by North Korea during last year’s Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, as it looked into whether the luxury cars had been illegally shipped to North Korea. ― TODAY pic
A United Nations report highlighted two Mercedes-Benz limousines used by North Korea during last year’s Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, as it looked into whether the luxury cars had been illegally shipped to North Korea. ― TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, March 16 — The Singapore government has said that it has in no way contributed to North Korea’s proliferation activities. This was in response to a United Nations (UN) report on March 5 stating that a study trip to a port here made by North Korean officials “may have been a sanction violation”.

The officials in question were from North Korea’s Nampo port, which is suspected of illegal activity such as “the loading of illegal exports of coal and the prohibited transfer of fuel”, the 378-page report by a UN panel of experts stated.

In response to TODAY’s queries yesterday, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that it had followed the “necessary due diligence and processes to ensure that no sanctions were violated” during the visit.

The UN panel was acting on information it received on October 12, 2018 from an unnamed “member state” on a “sanction violation” in Singapore.

The tip-off related to a scientific or technical training project between North Korea and Singapore, which included a study visit to Singapore's port by Nampo port officials.

However, the MFA stated that the port visit was a “specific follow-up” from the first summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held here in June 2018.

MFA added that Singapore had “duly notified the UN Sanctions Committee in advance of the visit, and the committee acknowledged receipt of our notification”.

MFA also noted that the UN Sanctions Committee had earlier granted Singapore a general exemption for activities associated with last year’s Trump-Kim summit.

However, the UN panel later sent a letter to Singapore flagging the port visit, highlighting "systemic violations” at Nampo.

Singapore replied “promptly” to the panel on December 4, 2018 to address its queries and confirm that Mr Kang Jong-gwan, North Korea’s minister of land and maritime transport — who oversees the country’s port, shipping and vessel operations — had headed the delegation here.

Kim Jong-un’s visit to Singapore

The panel also flagged two Mercedes-Benz limousines used by North Korea during last year’s Trump-Kim summit, held at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa.

The report looked into whether the luxury cars had been illegally shipped to North Korea, by examining the vehicles’ identification numbers and whether any had been altered.

The panel said that it observed “a number” of luxury cars without licence plates during meetings in Singapore, Beijing and Pyongyang, adding that the vehicles were used by at least one foreign head of state in North Korea last year.

So the panel wrote to both Singapore and China to request the identification numbers of the cars used in past meetings involving North Korea.

MFA said that after the 2018 summit, Singapore did provide the Sanctions Committee with details of the people in the North Korean delegation, and the items brought into and out of Singapore by the delegation for the summit.

“This included the two vehicles in question,” MFA said.

It added: “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.” ― TODAY

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