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Japan says it will impose new unilateral sanctions on North Korea over rocket launch

by

Staff Writer

The government said Monday it will slap new unilateral sanctions on North Korea in response to its rocket launch Sunday, amid rising calls from the families of abductees for tougher diplomacy.

Aside from coordinating closely with the international community to hammer out strong U.N. Security Council sanctions against the North, Japan is looking at its own punitive measures, Foreign Minister Fu-mio Ki-shi-da told the Lower House Budget Committee, without elaborating.

In a related announcement, the Diet is set to adopt a resolution condemning North Korea during a plenary session Tuesday, Sa-da-ka-zu Ta-ni-ga-ki, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters in the evening.

Japan already has placed unilateral sanctions on North Korea following previous rocket launches and nuclear weapons tests.

Some sanctions were lifted in July 2014, in response to the North’s start of what it called an “all-inclusive and comprehensive” investigation into the abduction issue.

Among measures eased were bans on entry of North Korean citizens into Japan and on humanitarian transport of materials such as food and cloths to the North.

The government’s vow to impose new unilateral sanctions corresponded with mounting calls from families of Japanese who were abducted by North Korea years ago that Japan needs to play hardball with Pyongyang.

Katsunobu Kato, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, met Monday at the Cabinet Office with a group of abductee relatives to ask what specific measures they want the government to take following Sunday’s rocket launch.

At the start of the meeting, Ka-to assured the families that the rocket launch ? which he called an “intolerable” threat to Japan’s security ? will not distract the government from efforts to resolve the abduction issue and that recovering their loved ones will remain “the highest priority” of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration.

“We will never put the abduction issue on the back burner,” Ka-to said.

After the closed-door meeting, Shi-geo Ii-zu-ka, a representative of the group, told reporters that the government shared no details on possible sanctions.

The relatives said they urged the government to “harshly penalize” Pyongyang on the grounds that the country has made no headway in the investigation that was started more than a year ago.

The families also said Tokyo should ensure that human rights abuses stemming from the abductions will be recognized as one of the reasons for U.N. sanctions against the North.

“The North has long made light of our voices. I want the Japanese government to use a firm hand and implement a measure that would really hurt Pyongyang, so that it will see no other option but to take us seriously,” Ii-zu-ka said.

Meanwhile, Sakie Yokota, whose daughter, Me-gu-mi, remains missing after being whisked away by North Korea decades ago, said: “The North is the kind of a country that has no problem with riding roughshod over international treaties. The Japanese government must understand that in order to deal with a country like that, we need to stick together and muster our wisdom.”