Japan OKs more sanctions on N. Korea

Updated: 2006-09-19 17:35
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Tokyo - Japan's Cabinet approved a new set of financial sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday in response to the nation's missile tests in July, the government's top spokesman said.

The sanctions, called for in a UN Security Council resolution that denounced the July launches, ban fund transfers and overseas remittances by groups and individuals suspected of links to North Korean weapons programs.

"By taking these measures, we have demonstrated the resolve of the international community and Japan that is in line with UN Security Council resolution," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

"I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the UN Security Council resolution in a sincere manner and respond to various concerns of the international community such as on their missile launches," he said.

Japan's Finance Ministry and other government bodies will put the new measures into effect later Tuesday, Kyodo News agency reported. Parliament had previously has voted to allow the government to impose such sanctions.

The new restrictions target 15 groups and one individual that have links to the North's weapons programs, Abe said. The measures will also tighten identification checks on people making suspicious transactions.

Abe, who had said on Monday that the sanctions would be adopted by the Cabinet on Tuesday, said at that time it was also necessary to put stronger pressure on North Korea over its past abductions of Japanese citizens.

"As it has become obvious that the problem cannot be resolved only through dialogue, pressure is unavoidable," Abe said. "In order to get them to change their behavior, we cannot help but apply the pressure."

Pyongyang, which has admitted kidnapping Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s to train as spies, allowed five of the abducted return home but said others were dead.

Abe, the nationalist leading this month's race for the premiership, said he planned to create a new Cabinet post in charge of the abduction issue if he replaces outgoing Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi.

Tokyo stepped up trade restrictions on North Korea in July following Pyongyang's test-firing of seven missiles, including one long-range rocket, into the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations, but the two countries have maintained limited economic ties. Following the latest sanctions, trade between the two plunged 39.4 percent, the government recently announced.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program at six-party negotiations that have been on hold since November 2005.