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Monday, June 19, 2006

Japan threatens sanctions if North test-fires missile

Staff writer

Japan would immediately consider imposing economic sanctions on North Korea should it test-launch a long-range ballistic missile and would request that the U.N. Security Council take up the issue, Foreign Minister Taro Aso warned Sunday.

"I think the issue would immediately be sent to the U.N. Security Council," he said on a TV Asahi talk show.

"(A launch) would clearly violate the (2002) Pyongyang Declaration. Protest would be very vehement," the foreign minister said, referring to North Korea's pledge to continue its moratorium on firing ballistic missiles.

North Korea has reportedly loaded booster rockets for a Taepodong-2 missile onto a launch pad at a base in the country's northeast, leading Japanese and U.S. officials to suspect a firing could be imminent.

Aso said the government could invoke several revised laws that allow sanctions against North Korea.

One provision would freeze cash transfers between the two countries, while another would ban shuttle ferry services between Japanese and North Korean ports.

This would affect the North Korean cargo-ferry Mangyongbong-92, which sails between Niigata and its home port of Wonsan across the Sea of Japan. It is suspected of being used for smuggling of drugs and other banned goods as well as illegal cash transfers.

The sanctions laws are also aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to return Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korean agents from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

Aso warned that debris from the missile could come down on Japanese land, but the government would not immediately recognize this as an attack against Japan.

"If they fire two or three (missiles into Japan), the story would of course be different," Aso said.

On Aug. 31, 1998, North Korean test-fired a two-stage Taepodong-1 missile, part of which fell in the Sea of Japan. Other parts flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean off the Sanriku coast of the Tohoku region.

Missile moratorium

WASHINGTON (AP) The United States expects North Korea to maintain a moratorium on missile tests, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Sunday.

Snow's comments came amid signs North Korea is preparing to test a long-range missile that could reach the continental United States.

"The North Koreans themselves decided in 1999 that they would place a moratorium on this kind of testing, and we expect them to maintain the moratorium," Snow told Fox News Sunday. "We do not want to have a missile test out of North Korea."

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The Japan Times

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