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Nations Urged to Stop Illicit Trade with North Korea

A number of experts recently said that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should play a bigger role in reining in North Korea by cracking down on its illicit trade and activities in their countries.

Some ASEAN nations provide a means for North Korea to evade sanctions imposed by the global community and earn hard currency.

ASEAN’s economic interaction with North Korea is tiny compared to that of China, but the isolated nation has deep and extensive relations with ASEAN nations.

The Philippines was the third-largest trading partner of North Korea. Singapore and Malaysia have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Vietnam and Laos share a “communist ideology,” and Cambodia and Myanmar have traditional friendships with the North.

ASEAN foreign ministers did not issue a joint statement condemning North Korea’s launch of an alleged ICBM. However, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam did issue individual statements against the action.

Some experts said the Trump administration should urge ASEAN countries to increase pressure on North Korea.

“The U.S. should forbid trade with, and deny U.S. dollar access to, any ASEAN country that trades with North Korea,” said Sean King, Senior Vice President of consulting firm Park Strategies. “Even seemingly benign commerce like ginseng sales and North Korean restaurants generate valuable hard currency for an evil regime that persecutes its own people and threatens others with nuclear annihilation.”

In May, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for ASEAN members to cut funding to and minimize diplomatic relations with North Korea.

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