A Liberal Democratic Party panel studying North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals stepped up the pressure on Pyongyang on Friday by approving an interim report that outlines steps for imposing economic sanctions on the reclusive state.
The report is aimed at prodding North Korea into providing more information about 10 Japanese whom Tokyo believes its agents kidnapped, at the next round of bilateral talks on the issue, which begins Tuesday in Pyongyang.
“If North Korea does not show sincerity in the upcoming talks, we need to step up the pressure by imposing economic sanctions,” said LDP Deputy Secretary General Shinzo Abe, who heads the panel.
Friday’s report mapped out five stages for leveling the sanctions, which are based on two pieces of legislation — a law allowing Japan to unilaterally ban cash remittances to and trade with North Korea, and another enabling the government to ban North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports.
In the first phase, Tokyo would freeze or suspend humanitarian aid to North Korea. In the second, it would beef up current measures to ensure that those who remit cash to or do business with North Korea would be reported to the government. Ethnic Koreans in Japan often send money to relatives in the North.
In the third phase, the government would conditionally prohibit cash remittances and trade, while the fourth would involve an all-out ban, the report says.
The most severe sanctions listed would ban North Korean ships from sailing to Japan.
The report also proposes a more radical plan of action under which all the sanctions would be imposed at once but lifted step by step.
House of Councilors member Ichita Yamamoto, who compiled Friday’s report, said the government can also phase in the sanctions in the order suggested or combine the different stages based on developments on the diplomatic front.
Japan was North Korea’s biggest trading partner in 2003, after China and South Korea. About 2.7 billion yen was remitted to North Korea from Japan in fiscal 2003.
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