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North Koreans face renewed ban on travel as Japan considers penalties

The revival of a ban on travel from North Korea is high on the list of possible punitive steps following Pyongyang’s nuclear test, informed sources say.

The government will decide its course of action after examining a planned U.N. Security Council resolution strengthening sanctions, the sources said late Thursday.

“We’ll respond to North Korea in a resolute and determined manner, including by considering our country’s own steps,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a full session of the Upper House on Thursday.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has drawn up a 13-point proposal for toughening sanctions on North Korea, including a blanket ban on money transfers.

In July 2014, Japan lifted some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang agreed to reopen an investigation into what happened to Japanese living there — including those abducted by Pyongyang’s agents.

The sanctions lifted included a ban on North Korean civilians and government officials traveling to Japan. The nation also allowed North Korean-registered ships to make port calls for humanitarian purposes, and it loosened restrictions on cash remittances to the impoverished nation.

The government is now seen as likely to reinstate the steps. “Everything is on the table,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Although the revival of sanctions would affect talks on the abduction issue, the government believes it is more important to act in concert with the international community in condemning the nuclear test.

Even though the abductions issue remains unresolved, Japan cannot unilaterally loosen sanctions, a government source said.

“We’re considering our country’s response while watching the Security Council’s move to adopt a new resolution and North Korea’s reaction,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.