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Japan toughens sanctions on NKorea

world Updated: Apr 10, 2009 08:20 IST
AFP
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Japan on Friday decided to tighten a watch on money flows to North Korea in a bid to punish the communist regime for its rocket launch, a top official said.

Tokyo also extended by a year existing sanctions -- bans on imports from North Korea and visits to Japan by its citizens and ships -- but backed off suggested plans for tougher new sanctions such as a total Japanese export ban.

The new restrictions were decided at a cabinet meeting early Friday, said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

"The measure is aimed at getting a clearer grasp of fund flows to North Korea," he told reporters, noting that smaller money transfers to the communist state would in future be subject to reporting to the Japanese government.

On April 5 Pyongyang fired a long-range rocket over Japanese territory, claiming it launched a satellite as part of a peaceful space programme.

Kawamura stressed that Japan saw the launch as a 'missile launch,' in line with the view held by Washington and Seoul that it was a thinly disguised test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"We assertively says this violation of the UN Security Council resolutions by North Korea is related to its ballistic missile programme," Kawamura said.

The move came as Japan struggled to secure a resolution at the UN Security Council to punish North Korea, as China and Russia have favoured a milder, non-binding statement to be read by the council president.

Japan's tighter watch on money is a much milder step than other options sought by some ruling-party lawmakers such as a total ban on exports to North Korea and an outright prohibition on all visits by North Korean nationals.

Kawamura said the government "made a comprehensive judgement giving thought to the talks in the UN Security Council and international public opinion."

Under the new measures which take effect next week, all remittances to North Korea worth more than 10 million yen (100,000 dollars) will have to be reported to the government -- lowering the limit to one third of the current threshold.

The government also plans to lower the amount of cash subject to reporting by travellers to North Korea to 300,000 yen from more than one million yen.

Tokyo first imposed formal bilateral sanctions against Pyongyang in 2006, when North Korea tested missiles and a nuclear bomb.

Since then Japan has halted all imports from North Korea and visits by its citizens, except in special cases, and banned port calls by its ships, including a regular ferry service to the impoverished state.

To specifically target the leaders of the isolated Pyongyang regime, Japan has also banned exports of 24 luxury products -- including caviar, beef, fatty tuna and selected high-end consumer electronics.