Is North Korea's missile-test halt a signal to Washington?

Cheryl Sanders
November 17, 2017

China has backed a series of United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang and imposed banking restrictions on North Koreans, putting the Cold War-era allies at odds.

The Singapore Customs posted a circular on its website last week informing traders that "all commercially traded goods that are imported, exported, transshipped or brought in transit" through Singapore to and from North Korea will be prohibited from Nov 8.

Prof Choi Min-ho of Seoul National University's college of medicine said: "Although we do not have solid figures showing health conditions of North Korea, medical experts assume that parasite infection problems and serious health issues have been prevalent in the country".

     USS RONALD REAGAN The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is permanently stationed in Japan
GETTY USS RONALD REAGAN The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is permanently stationed in Japan

However, this does not indicate that North Korea is ready to abandon its decadeslong nuclear ambition, as reports on testing of relevant key technologies continue to surface.

Dr Graham Ong-Webb, research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said Singapore has been gradually registering its disapproval and tightening sanctions, while leaving "room for dialogue and a face-saving way out".

Later Thursday, the USA appeared to notch a victory in its efforts concerning North Korea, after the State Department announced that Sudan would cut all military and trade ties to North Korea. The 10-member bloc ranks among North Korea's major trading partners.

Singapore has a standing advisory on citizens against non-essential travel to North Korea. Thailand was the fourth-largest trade partner, after China, Russia and India.

He said that on top of Pyongyang's repeated nuclear tests, the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's half-brother, in Malaysia last February also "stiffened the resolve of the Southeast Asian countries to sever substantial ties with North Korea". It is widely believed that Pyongyang orchestrated the assassination.

Satellite images taken this month of a North Korean naval shipyard indicate Pyongyang is pursuing an "aggressive schedule" to build its first operational ballistic missile submarine, a United States institute reported on Thursday. "But we're continuing to monitor the situation".

However, in his Friday policy speech, he steered clear of giving any timeframe and has previously said he will move cautiously on the divisive issue.

"We have also discovered a parasite never seen in Koreans before".

"(The NIS said that) the North had recently carried out a few missile engine tests, but it is still not at a stage where it can complete its ICBM development", an unnamed parliamentary source told Yonhap News Agency on Friday, referring to the North's lack of atmospheric re-entry technology.

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