LESS than two weeks after new UN sanctions, North Korea's ceremonial head of state and two top economic officials are in Si¡n¡gapore and Indonesia on a trip that appears aimed at drumming up outside investment.
Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of North Korea's parliament, arrived in Singapore on Friday for his first reported trip overseas since late leader Kim Jong Il's December death.
He was to head yesterday to Indonesia with two senior economic officials, according to North Korean state media. Kim, no relation to Kim Jong Il and leader Kim Jong Un, often represents North Korea abroad.
The week-long journey comes on the heels of new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea for launching a long-range rocket last month in defiance of Security Council resolutions banning it from nuclear or ballistic missile activity. North Korea insists the launch was an attempt to send a satellite into space.
Washington suspended an agreement to provide North Korea with food aid, and the North could face more punishment if it follows the launch with an atomic test as it did in 2006 and 2009.
Even as it has risked punishment by developing missiles, North Korea also has focused since 2009 on improving its economy by developing light industry, drawing foreign investment and expanding trade.
With ties remaining tense with South Korea, North Korea is looking elsewhere to build economic partnerships.
Singaporean entrepreneurs already are supplying the well-to-do in Pyongyang with everything from Heineken beer to Hello Kitty, and have introduced some locals to hamburgers, fried chicken and Belgian waffles.