Tokyo cuts North’s cash supply

Japan bans fund transfers to 15 weapons-linked institutions

by Hiroko Nakata

Japan on Tuesday dealt another blow to North Korea, imposing financial sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution that urges countries to prevent the transfer of funds for Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Financial institutions in Japan are now banned from conducting fund transfers and overseas remittances to 15 North Korea-linked financial institutions and trading firms as well as Jakob Steiger, the president of Swiss company Kohas AG.

The government said the 15 entities are suspected of having links with Pyongyang’s development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. It did not disclose any other details, such as the roles they have played in Pyongyang’s weapons program.

The Associated Press said the companies are mostly based in Pyongyang but also include the Swiss industrial supply company Kohas AG, which has already had sanctions leveled against it by Washington.

The government announced that financial institutions in Japan, including foreign banks, must increase their checks on money transfers they suspect are linked to the 15 entities and report them to the government.

The government will conduct special inspections of financial institutions here that handle foreign financial transactions, including foreign bank branches.

The measures took effect immediately after they were announced.

On July 15, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Pyongyang’s test missile launches on July 5.

The resolution bans all U.N. member states from conducting transactions with North Korea that involve material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction. It says countries should take steps to prevent the transfer of any financial resources that could be connected to North Korea’s weapons program.

Tokyo is aiming with this round of sanctions to increase the pressure on Pyongyang to stop its weapons program and to address Japan’s concerns about the fates of Japanese abducted to the North in the 1970s and 1980s.

In July, the government invoked the economic sanctions law for the first time after North Korea’s missile test-launches, banning the North Korean cargo-ferry Mangyongbong-92 from Japanese ports for six months.

Pyongyang has refused to attend six-party talks on its nuclear program unless certain conditions are met, despite the U.N. resolution pressing it to drop its demands and return to the negotiating table.

“We decided on the measures after having made efforts to cooperate with other countries” to bring North Korea back to the six-nation talks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference.

“We demand that North Korea take (the U.N. resolution) seriously and act as the international community hopes it will.”

The decision was made ahead of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election on Wednesday, which Abe — a hardliner on North Korea — is favored to win. The winner is expected to be chosen prime minister in next week’s Diet vote.

Abe said Tokyo’s decision is part of global cooperation. The U.S. and South Korea have already imposed sanctions, and Australia announced sanctions Tuesday.

See related links:
Gist of North Korea sanctions
China unhappy with latest sanctions
Abductee kin hope latest sanctions help