Japan extends sanctions against N Korea
Japan extended sanctions yesterday against North Korea by another six months to mid-April to keep up the pressure on Pyongyang over its abductions of Japanese nationals, government officials said.
The decision was made at a cabinet meeting, an official said, on the first anniversary of the North's first ever atomic weapons test.
"Marking this occasion, we want to renew our demand that North Korea take concrete action towards the resolution of the relevant issues," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
The sanctions will cover the period from October 14 to April 13, according to a foreign ministry official in charge of Northeast Asian affairs.
Although the extension technically needs parliament's endorsement, that is regarded as a formality as the opposition has said it has no objections.
It came despite a big step forward in disarmament talks last week, when the communist state agreed to declare its nuclear programmes and disable its main atomic reactor by the end of the year.
That was in line with a landmark accord in February, under which the North pledged to shut down and abandon its nuclear programme completely in exchange for vital energy aid and diplomatic concessions.
The Japanese government had imposed economic sanctions in October last year after the reclusive state conducted its first nuclear test.
It barred all imports from North Korea, including money-making produce such as clams, crabs and high-end matsutake mushrooms, for six months.
Port calls by North Korean ships were also banned.
The six-month sanctions were extended by another half-year from April.
There is still strong public resentment in Japan over a lingering dispute about the extent of the North's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies.