KL cuts off Py­ongyang im­ports

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

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.

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