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Japan slaps new sanctions on NKorea

Japan said today that it is slapping new sanctions on North Korea by clamping down on money transfers, while the leaders of Japan and the US pledged cooperation in taking the North Korea before the UN Security Council over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

world Updated: May 28, 2010 12:29 IST

Japan said on Friday that it is slapping new sanctions on North Korea by clamping down on money transfers, while the leaders of Japan and the US pledged cooperation in taking the North Korea before the UN Security Council over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

International pressure is mounting on North Korea over the sinking, which a multinational team of investigators blamed last week on a North Korean-made torpedo. Forty-six South Korean sailors died in the March 26 disaster, the worst military attack on the South since the Korean War.

North Korea has denied responsibility and has warned that any retaliation or punishment would mean war.

Any Security Council action would need the backing of key permanent member China. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak was to lay out the case against North Korea in talks on Friday with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, a South Korean government official said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry policy.

Wen arrived in Seoul a day before a summit with the leaders of South Korea and Japan on the South Korean island of Jeju. China, North Korea's main ally, has refrained from committing to Security Council action.

Senior US officials said on Wednesday that China had indicated that it was prepared to hold the North accountable for the torpedo attack and could join in some kind of formal Security Council rebuke.

However, asked about Beijing's stance on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu simply called the issue "highly complicated" and said China's position remained unchanged.

"China does not have first hand information. We are looking at the information from all sides in a prudent manner," Ma told a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing.

Tensions have been rising daily on the Korean peninsula since the May 20 release of the investigation report.
South Korea slashed trade, resumed anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts across the border and on Thursday launched large scale naval exercises off the coast, with US-South Korean drills to follow in the coming months.

North Korea threatened to attack any South Korean ships entering its waters and scrapped an accord meant to prevent naval clashes. Still, North Korea allowed South Korean workers to cross the border on Friday for jobs at a joint industrial facility in the North.

Japan, which already bans trade with the North, said on Friday that it will reduce the amount of money that can be sent to North Korea, without being reported to the Japanese government. Tokyo also said it will slash the amount of cash travellers, can take into North Korea an apparent bid to target funds funneled to the North by ethnic Koreans in Japan.

Calling the sinking of the ship "unforgivable", Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano suggested in Tokyo that the government is considering additional sanctions.

Separately, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and President Barack Obama jointly condemned the attack in a phone call and vowed to cooperate with South Korea on taking North Korea to the Security Council, the White House said.

"The President and the Prime Minister called on North Korea to end its provocative behaviour toward its neighbours and to abide by its commitment to eliminate its nuclear-weapons program and to fulfill its other international obligations," the White House said in a statement.