Another year to be tacked on North Korea sanctions

Kyodo

The government will extend the sanctions against North Korea for another year after deciding there has been no tangible progress on resolving the abductions of Japanese nationals, according to sources.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet plans to approve the extension on March 30 or April 3, about two weeks ahead of the expiration of the current measures, which include a ban on North Korean vessels making port calls in Japan, the sources said Monday.

The sanctions, which expire April 13, will be extended for the first time by the Noda administration and the eighth time since they were introduced in 2006 following nuclear and long-range missile tests by North Korea.

The Cabinet’s OK of the next extension will likely be moved up to as early as late March to avoid it taking place when North Korea commemorates the 100th anniversary of the April 15 birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung.

To date, the government has not taken into account North Korea’s domestic affairs when extending the sanctions.

This time, however, the government is anxious that Japan’s prolongation of the punitive steps, which also include banning all imports from and exports to North Korea, may be regarded by Pyongyang as “provocative” if it is approved during the Kim celebration, one of the sources said.

North Korea’s Workers’ Party of Korea will also hold a meeting of its representatives in mid-April, where new leader Kim Jong Un could be elevated to the party’s top post.

Following the death in mid-December of Kim Jong Il, the new leader’s father, North Korea is undergoing a closely watched leadership transition.

Japan is trying to make contact through various channels with North Korea.