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Friday, Feb. 27, 2004

Japan set to play sanction card

Prolonged North Korea standoff will force Tokyo to act


Staff writer

Japan may impose economic sanctions on North Korea if the standoff over its nuclear threat and the abduction issue is prolonged, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda hinted Thursday.

The top government spokesman made the comments on the same day as Japan's revised Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law went into effect.

Fukuda said, however, that Thursday's implementation of the revised law coincided by chance with the second day of six-party talks in Beijing on Pyongyang's nuclear program. North Korea has criticized Japan for trying to step up pressure on the country.

"Deterioration of the current situation or prolonged (negotiations) can be included in the conditions" to invoke economic sanctions, Fukuda told a regular news conference. But the government has avoided clearly stating whether it would invoke such sanctions.

The revision enables the government to halt trade and money remittances to a particular country if the government judges that "it is necessary for the maintenance of the peace and safety of our country."

On pending issues with North Korea, Fukuda said Japan may resort to economic sanctions even if the situation does not pose a particular threat to Japan.

On Wednesday in Beijing, North Korea and five other countries -- the United States, Russia, South Korea, China and Japan -- began talks to defuse the crisis over Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons.

Since the talks began, Japan has demanded that North Korea unconditionally return family members of five Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korean agents decades ago and allowed to return to Japan in October 2002.

North Korea depends heavily on money remittances from Koreans living in Japan, which were valued at 4 billion yen in fiscal 2002. The value of trade between the two countries totaled 45.9 billion yen the same year.



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The Japan Times

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