Singapore ends visa waivers for North Korea

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Singapore ends visa waivers for North Korea

Singapore said Saturday it will exclude North Korea from its visa waiver program, effective on Oct. 1, in conjunction with UN Security Council resolutions imposed in March against the communist regime.

The island nation stated on its government customs office website Saturday that “all nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will require a visa to enter Singapore,” the latest sting for the isolated state whose relations with the international community have recently suffered amidst the imposition of the toughest-ever international sanctions in March for its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test the following month.

Singapore’s decision to lift the visa-waiver for the North is a follow-up measure to its report to the UN Security Council submitted in June detailing its plans and executions of punitive measures on the Pyongyang regime.

Singapore was among a few nations such as Malaysia, Ecuador and Gambia to which North Koreans could be admitted without visas.

Following suit with Singapore’s decision, the Mediterranean island nation of Malta also decided to stop extending and issuing new visas to North Koreans, following its measure taken earlier to deport North Koreans on the island.

According to a foreign affairs ministry official, who asked for anonymity, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, who was visiting the country, was told by his Maltese counterpart George Vella during a meeting Friday that Malta had recently stopped renewing visas for North Koreans in the country and would not issue new ones for them, citing Pyongyang’s exploitation of its labor force overseas in violations of their human rights.

Yun’s visit to Malta was the first such visit by the top South Korea diplomat since the two opened diplomatic relations in 1965.

Minister Vella reportedly told Yun that his country would fall in line behind international efforts to put pressure on the North to curb its nuclear ambition. Reports on Pyongyang’s exploitation of its labor forces working overseas have been widely circulated in recent months as the nation scrambles to secure whatever sources of foreign currency available amid the recent sanctions.

In line with the sanctions, Switzerland did not export its luxury watches to Pyongyang in May and June despite the item being one of Kim Jong-un’s favorite imported goods. It also ordered the closure of Swiss bank branches in North Korea as well as North Korean financial branches operating in Switzerland.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, YOO JEE-HYE [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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