• Kyodo

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The United States is sounding out Japan about using its foreign exchange law to impose financial sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, Japanese diplomatic sources said Saturday.

The U.S. is keeping open the option of assembling a coalition of countries to impose sanctions on Iran while continuing diplomatic efforts to win a concerted U.N. Security Council action to press Tehran to stop its uranium enrichment activities.

“The United States has been discussing with its allies, including Japan, appropriate responses on Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon capability,” said Robert Joseph, the U.S. undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.

“We hope that all states . . . will develop appropriate legal mechanisms to stop proliferation activities, including by financially isolating proliferators and the support networks that facilitate their activity,” Joseph said.

One of the sources said the Japanese government has “begun looking into the possibility of using the foreign exchange law.”

Japan amended the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law in 2004 to allow the government to impose unilateral financial sanctions. The revision was mainly targeted at North Korea.

Imposing sanctions unilaterally without U.N. measures would be a tough choice for Japan, which relies on Iran for oil, thus making it uncertain whether Tokyo would actually use the law.

As Foreign Minister Taro Aso repeatedly said during a visit to Washington last week, Tokyo officially maintains that it will continue to seek action by the Security Council.

Aso and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed in their talks Wednesday on the need for U.N. action to press Iran to abandon its nuclear programs.

But behind the scenes, Washington has been sounding out Japan about its revised foreign exchange law.