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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Steps against Pyongyang widened

Staff writers

With the U.N. Security Council stuck in debate about how to respond to North Korea's rocket launch, Japan increased and extended its own sanctions Friday to condemn the hermit state, which sent the Taepodong-2 over its territory.

North Korea claimed the rocket was carrying a satellite, but Japan, South Korea and the United States say it was a ballistic missile being tested.

While Friday's decision both strengthens and extends Japan's penalties against Pyongyang for another year, the government may have avoided taking stricter options to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing talks at the U.N.

Stricter steps could have included banning all Japanese exports to North Korea or freezing assets belonging to Pyongyang-related groups in Japan.

"The United Nations Security Council is discussing the sanctions over this missile launch and a violation of the U.N. resolution," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

Tokyo, which bans port calls by North Korean-registered vessels and all imports from the country, will impose tougher regulations on cash remittances and the physical transfer of cash to Pyongyang.

"We already had sanctions on boats, goods and exchanges of people," Kawamura said.

"And we came to the conclusion that it was necessary to look into the flow of money and that is why we took these additional measures," he added.

According to a government release, Japan will ask people carrying ¥300,000 or more to North Korea, instead of ¥1 million, to file prior notifications so it can more closely monitor the transactions. Those making electronic remittances of ¥10 million or more, down from ¥30 million, will be required to notify the government as well.

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