Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday updated its travel advisory to recommend against all non-essential travel to North Korea, a bulletin posted showed.
The change in status is notable because the countries have long enjoyed warm relations; Singapore until last year offered North Koreans rare visa-free access, while Pyongyang does not charge Singaporeans for visas to visit the North.
“Given recent developments and the unpredictable situation arising from the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Singaporeans should avoid all non-essential travel to North Korea,” a bulletin posted on the foreign ministry website said.
It added that Singapore has no diplomatic representation in the North, which would make it difficult for the foreign ministry to provide consular assistance in the event of problems.
The warning notably follows U.S. State Department calls to countries around the world to downgrade or sever their diplomatic ties with the North.
“Singapore sits on the fence whenever there’s any conflict between superpowers such as the U.S. and China, always choosing only non-violent options,” said Aram Pan of DPRK 360, a Singaporean who regularly visits the North.
“The government has generally leaned slightly more towards supporting U.S. policies while still maintaining Asian values,” Pan continued. “Therefore this decision comes as no surprise to me.”
A Singaporean think tank researcher familiar with North Korea, however, said the warning was likely due to recent events.
“My interpretation of this travel advisory is that Singapore is just taking another form of action to signal to North Korea Singapore’s displeasure over North Korea’s recent nuclear test in violation of UNSC resolutions,” said Shawn Ho of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“I do not read this travel advisory as implying that the likelihood of conflict has increased dramatically on the Korean Peninsula,” Ho added.
The Singaporean bulletin also comes after a similar warning was abruptly issued by the United Kingdom in the middle of August, which also recommended against all but essential travel.
Just weeks ahead of the status change a British foreign ministry source told NK News the UK still believed travel was safe for British citizens.
The DPRK and Singapore enjoy relatively warm relations, with companies from the Southeast Asian country among a dwindling number of foreign investors.
A recent NK Pro investigation linked Singaporean entity OCN (S) PTE – and a web of affiliates – to the sale and transfer of prohibited luxury goods to North Korea. A second part of the investigation found links still active as of at least March 2017.
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