Japan bans all trade with Pyongyang over nuclear tests

Japan on Tuesday instituted a "total ban on exports" to North Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang's continued nuclear testing. This comes amid worries of a third nuclear test to come, after the UN recently voted in tougher sanctions on the regime.


AFP - Japan on Tuesday banned all remaining trade with North Korea to punish the isolated communist regime for its latest nuclear and missile tests, officials said.

Prime Minister Taro Aso's cabinet agreed on "a total ban on exports" to the impoverished state on top of an import freeze imposed after the North's first atomic test in 2006, a trade ministry official said.

Tokyo's latest move comes amid worries Pyongyang may soon conduct a third nuclear test after the UN Security Council voted Friday on tougher sanctions in response to the regime's May 25 test.

Japan's exports to the North last year totalled just 792.6 million yen (8.2 million dollars), mainly machinery and transport equipment such as trains and vehicles, food, electronics and industrial goods, the finance ministry says.

"The ban will be effective until April 13 next year. We have expanded the ban to cover all goods," said the trade ministry official, Masaru Yamazumi.

Analysts see Japan's new sanctions as largely symbolic because North Korea conducts the bulk of its trade with its large communist neighbour and closest ally China, also its biggest source of aid.

"Japan's additional sanctions won't have a substantial impact on North Korea," said Lee Young Hwa, a Korean affairs expert at Kansai University.

"The only thing left for Japan to do now is to persuade China to fully comply with the UN sanctions," Lee told AFP.

The UN Security Council resolution adopted Friday, which does not authorise the use of force, calls on member states to impose expanded sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong-Il over its latest provocations.

For Japan, a total export ban is among the last economic measures it had left to use against North Korea. It stopped all imports in 2006 when it also banned most visits by its citizens and port calls by its ships.

To target the regime's leaders, Japan has also enforced UN rules and banned exports of 24 luxury products -- including caviar, fatty tuna, beef and several high-end consumer electronics.

Last month Japan also tightened a watch on money flows to North Korea, requiring that all remittances over 10 million yen (100,000 dollars) be reported, lowering the limit to a third of the previous threshold.

Under the latest changes, foreigners living in Japan will be banned from re-entering the country if they violate any of the restrictions on trade, monetary flows and travel to North Korea, media reports said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Monday Japan was also mulling law changes to allow it to conduct UN-authorised ship inspections of North Korean vessels suspected to be carrying missile or nuclear materials.

Kawamura said the government would propose details about the plan to the ruling coalition this week.

Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution strictly limits the operations and reach of its navy, and the coast guard can usually carry out cargo inspections only within Japan's territorial waters.

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