Japan to step up North Korea sanctions after sinking

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japan will toughen sanctions against North Korea, the top government spokesman said on Friday, after an investigation concluded last week that Pyongyang was responsible for the March sinking of a South Korean naval vessel.

Tokyo, which has long feuded with North Korea over issues including Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula and Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese citizens decades ago, sees itself as a possible target of aggression by its unpredictable neighbor.

The move comes ahead of a trilateral summit with South Korea and China this weekend at which Beijing will come under renewed pressure to join the international chorus of condemnation of Pyongyang.

“The government’s position is that we will put forward our thinking on North Korea at international meetings and will work closely with South Korea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told reporters.

“We will strongly urge China to understand this position and align themselves with us, to share our understanding.”

Japan will lower the limit on the amount of undeclared cash that can be carried to North Korea to 100,000 yen from the current 300,000 yen, Hirano told reporters. Remittances over 3 million yen must also be declared, compared with 10 million previously, he said.

The new sanctions will be implemented swiftly, he added.

The amount of declared cash carried from Japan to North Korea has tumbled in recent years, despite stricter reporting rules.

About 438 million yen in cash was taken to the North in the 11 months to February 2009, compared with more than 2.7 billion yen in the financial year starting in April 2005.

Declared remittances to North Korea came to 55 million yen in the 11 months to February 2009, about a quarter of the figure four years earlier.

The government, which already bans all trade between Japan and North Korea, will also step up efforts to block imports and exports via third countries, Hirano said.

The new sanctions come as Japan’s parliament prepares to enact a bill that will enable the country’s coast guard to inspect North Korean cargo in international waters, in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution last year.

It has taken a year for Tokyo to overcome the legal complications of its pacifist constitution to comply with the resolution prompted by North Korea’s nuclear test in May 2009.

Once the new law takes effect, about 30 days after enactment, Japan’s coast guard can in theory inspect suspicious North Korean cargo on the high seas, but needs consent from both the country under whose flag it is registered and from the captain of the ship.

If the country under whose flag the ship is registered refuses permission and does not allow inspection in a third-country port, Japan can report the matter to the United Nations.

Critics are doubtful of the effectiveness of the new law, but Japanese government officials say it should help international efforts to stop suspicious imports to and exports from North Korea.

Stock Analysis

(Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Japan to step up North Korea sanctions after sinking