KL cuts off Pyongyang imports
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia, which until recently had been one of Pyongyang’s closest friends, has halted all imports from North Korea, as part of global efforts to cut off funding over its nuclear and missile programmes.
Malaysia did not buy any goods from North Korea in June and July, after buying 20.6 million ringgit (161.4 million baht) worth of goods in the first five months of the year, according to data from the Department of Statistics.
Malaysia’s ties with North Korea have deteriorated since the February assassination of Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother at Kuala Lumpur international airport, an act which the United States and South Korea say was ordered by the North Korean leader.
Kuala Lumpur last month banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea, two weeks after Prime Minister Najib Razak met with US President Donald Trump at the White House. The visit gave Mr Najib a political boost at home, with his popularity suffering over a massive scandal at a state investment fund, which the US Department of Justice is investigating.
Mr Trump told reporters after meeting with Mr Najib at the White House last month that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak “does not do business with North Korea any longer, and we find that to be very important.”
Malaysia had been a key source of revenue for the North. Citizens from both countries enjoyed visa-free travel. Malaysia was host to hundreds of overseas workers. More importantly were operations that funnelled money to the regime.
Malaysia’s halt to North Korean imports came ahead of drastic UN and US sanctions last month that ramp up export bans and penalise companies and individuals doing business with North Korea.
The United Nations on Sept 11 banned North Korea’s lucrative textile exports as well as all joint ventures with North Koran individuals or entities.
Mr Trump issued an executive order 10 days later penalising any company or person doing business with North Korea by cutting off their access to the US financial system, freezing their assets or both.
While imports have stopped, Malaysia has continued exports to North Korea. Exports included palm oil, food and medical supplies worth 4.4 million ringgit between January and July.