In rare stand, South Korea, Singapore unveil sanctions on Russia

Russia’s attack on its European neighbour has generated relatively little condemnation in Asia compared to the West.

Singapore skyline
Singapore is among the few Asian countries to announce sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine [File: Wong Maye-E/Pool]

South Korea and Singapore have unveiled sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, offering rare pushback against Moscow in a region that has largely avoided taking sides in the conflict.

Seoul will ban exports of strategic items, join other countries in blocking some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system, and boost aid to Ukraine, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The restricted items will include electronics, semiconductors, computers, information and communications, sensors and lasers, navigation and avionics, and marine and aerospace equipment.

South Korea will also promote the release of more strategic oil reserves to help stabilise the global energy market and consider other measures, including the resale of LNG to Europe, the ministry said.

“The Korean government condemned Russia’s armed invasion of Ukraine and, as a responsible member of the international community, decided to actively participate in the international community’s efforts, including economic sanctions, for a peaceful resolution of the situation,” the statement said.

Seoul, a close US ally, announced earlier it would support Western-led sanctions against Moscow, without drawing up unilateral measures of its own.

‘Unprecedented gravity’

Singapore said it would impose “appropriate sanctions and restrictions,” including financial measures and export controls on items that could be used as weapons against the people of Ukraine.

The Asian financial centre follows UN Security Council resolutions but rarely issues its own sanctions against countries. The city-state and Indonesia were last week the only Southeast Asian countries to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military assault against Ukraine.

“Singapore intends to act in concert with many other like-minded countries to impose appropriate sanctions and restrictions against Russia,” Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told parliament.

Balakrishnan said the sanctions were warranted due to the “unprecedented gravity” of the situation and Russia’s veto last week of a draft Security Council resolution, which Singapore co-sponsored.

“In particular, we will impose export controls on items that can be used directly as weapons in Ukraine to inflict harm or to subjugate the Ukrainians,” he said.

“We will also block certain Russian banks and financial transactions connected to Russia,” he added.

Meanwhile, Japan, a major US ally, on Monday said it was working with the international community to inflict “maximum cost to Russia”, after Tokyo last week unveiled a raft of sanctions that include freezing the financial assets of Putin and other top government officials.

Russia’s attack on its European neighbour has generated relatively little condemnation in Asia, where many countries’ foreign policy involves balancing relations between major powers.

China, one of Russia’s closest partners, has refused to term Putin’s offensive an “invasion” and expressed opposition to “all illegal unilateral sanctions”, while military-ruled Mynamer has strongly backed Moscow.

Countries including Cambodia, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have expressed concern or called for dialogue to resolve the crisis without condemning Moscow.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies