UK warship policing N. Korea sanctions arrives in Singapore

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - A British warship deployed to Asia-Pacific to police international sanctions against North Korea docked in Singapore yesterday, in a sign that international censure remains firm despite an ongoing diplomatic thaw.

HMS Albion will be in Singapore until early next week and in Asia-Pacific throughout this year.

It joins another British warship, HMS Sutherland, in helping to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

It is the first time since 2013 that the British Royal Navy has had a presence in Asia-Pacific.

A third British vessel - the HMS Argyll - will arrive in the region later this year.

British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman said the deployments showed Britain's commitment to global peace and security and were a defence of the rules-based international system.

UN sanctions passed last September banned various exports to North Korea in the wake of its sixth nuclear test, making it illegal for ships to transfer goods and items to North Korean vessels.

But there have been reports of ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels at sea, in breach of these sanctions.

"The presence of HMS Albion in the region is a demonstration of the British government and Royal Navy's commitment to engaging in international cooperation to ensure that those sanctions are respected," Mr Wightman told reporters.

UN member states have the authority to inspect vessels suspected of evading UN sanctions.

News of the British deployment came despite an unfolding detente which began with North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics in February.

A historic summit between North and South Korea will take place on April 27, and talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are scheduled for May or early June.

Said British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in a statement on Wednesday: "Until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions, the UK will continue working closely with partners and allies to keep up pressure and strictly enforce existing sanctions, ensuring not only regional security but that of the UK as well."

While in the region, HMS Albion and HMS Sutherland will visit several ports and take part in joint training with allies and partners, including the United States, South Korea and Japan, added the statement. Britain, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia make up the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

HMS Albion's Captain Tim Neild told reporters: "We'll be working very closely with the Republic of Singapore Navy to build on those relationships."

"We'll be working with our allies and partners to conduct various training exercises which build common bonds and shared understandings," he added.

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