Japan Extends Sanctions Against NKorea For Rocket

By: Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press Email
By: Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press Email

TOKYO (AP) - Japan renewed and strengthened sanctions against North Korea for another year as Tokyo struggles to punish the communist country for its recent rocket launch, officials said Friday.

North Korea says Sunday's launch was to send a satellite into orbit, but Japan and allies call it a cover for a missile test.

Japan's Cabinet ramped up economic sanctions imposed on the isolated country since a 2006 missile test, banning all exports and lowering the cap on remittances that must be reported, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.

The old sanctions, which must be renewed every six months, expire on Monday.

The new measures would reduce the amount of remittance to North Korea subject to reporting to the Japanese government to 10 million yen ($100,000) from 30 million yen ($300,000), and slash the amount of money that travelers can bring into the North by more than one-third to 300,000 yen ($3,000).

The measures Friday also bar all exports to the North, strengthening a ban on selling luxury goods to North Korea, including pricey beef, caviar, alcohol and cars, under a U.N. resolution.

North Korea, one of the world's poorest countries, is in desperate need of outside help, particularly since aid that flowed in unconditionally from neighboring South Korea for a decade dried up after President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul in 2008.

Famine is believed to have killed as many as 2 million North Koreans in the mid and late-1990s when natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its centrally controlled economy. The North has since relied on aid to help feed its 23 million people.

However, with trade between the two countries already restricted sharply, additional measures are believed to have little impact on the North and are seen rather as a political tool.

Japan had readied missile interceptors both on land an off its northwestern coast Sunday but did not fire them because no debris appeared to fall toward its territory. Japan instead requested an emergency session of the Security Council to call for a stern response to the launch, but the debate has stalled, with North Korea's close allies China and Russia calling for restraint.

Sunday's launch has also triggered debate among some ruling lawmakers that Japan should consider a possibility of pre-emptive strike on North Korean missile facilities.

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