Japan considers further sanctions on N Korea
TOKYO, July 6: Japanese lawmakers and other officials today began discussions about imposing additional economic sanctions against North Korea, including possibly limiting fund remittances.
After a flurry of North Korean missile tests yesterday, Japan announced a package of initial sanctions centring around a six-month ban on visits by a North Korean ferry long suspected to have been involved in carrying parts for North Korea's missile programme.
A panel on North Korea made up of lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed to write a bill toughening existing laws on remittances and trade, as well as money laundering, and submit it to parliament in autumn.
''This bill has been under consideration for a while, but now there's the idea that it should be done quickly,'' said Tadasu Yano, policy secretary for upper house lawmaker Ichita Yamamoto, who chairs the panel.
Though the bill would be written with North Korea in mind, debate currently centres on whether it should mention the country by name, he added.
Laws passed two years ago allow Tokyo to suspend remittances and trade, as well as take other steps to restrict the flow of money and goods, but have refrained from specifying any specific nation.
Separately, a task force made up of officials from a number of government ministries as well as the National Police Agency, including chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe, met to explore what sanctions can be taken under current laws, a Cabinet Secretariat official said.
High on the radar for both groups is limiting fund remittances to North Korea from pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan, a major source of funds for the isolated state.
The Mangyongbong-92 ferry, whose visits were banned yesterday, is the only direct passenger link between the two nations and also an important conduit for carrying money to North Korea.
Other steps taken yesterday included barring officials from North Korean organisations in Japan from re-entering after visiting the North and halting already-rare charter flights.
About 600,000 ethnic Koreans live in Japan, and about 150,000 of them consider themselves to be North Koreans.
Most are descendants of people who came voluntarily or were forcibly brought to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.