Cabinet extends North sanctions

by Reiji Yoshida

The Cabinet said Friday that the economic sanctions against North Korea will be extended another six months despite recent progress in U.S.-North Korea talks over Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told reporters that North Korea must show progress on three issues to lift Japan’s sanctions, namely on the past abductions of Japanese nationals, on dismantling its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Japan first imposed sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang conducted missile tests in July 2006. Tokyo slapped additional measures after North Korea conducted a nuclear test the following October.

The sanctions include banning all North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports, all imports from the North and exports of 24 luxury goods.

The latest decision came after the top negotiators of the United States and North Korea announced earlier this week in Singapore that they reached “an understanding” on how to move ahead with the deadlocked six-nation talks on denuclearizing the North.

The two envoys, however, did not disclose any details of their agreement.

Komura also said Tokyo will send a message to the North that Japan could lift all or part of the sanctions even during the six-month period if Pyongyang attempts some progress on the three issues.

“We’d like the North Korean side to take actions to improve Japan-North Korea relations as much as possible,” the minister said.