The Diet passed a bill Friday that requires the government to impose economic sanctions on North Korea if Pyongyang fails to make progress in addressing its human rights situation, notably resolving the fate of abducted Japanese.

With the enactment, the government hopes to effect the eventual return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents from the late 1970s to the early 1980s and promote international cooperation in resolving the issue. Pyongyang, however, claims no Japanese abductees remain alive.

The bill cleared the legislature at a plenary session of the Upper House with support from the Liberal Democratic Party, junior ruling bloc partner New Komeito, and the main opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan. The Lower House passed the bill Tuesday.

The law is the third in a series of measures to press North Korea on the abduction issue. It follows a law to take financial actions through the revised Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law and a law to ban port calls by North Korean vessels.

Leaders of a group of relatives of abductees welcomed the legislation as a step toward bringing their loved ones home and urged the government to take advantage of it.

“The problem is how to make use of this law,” Shigeru Yokota, 73, whose daughter, Megumi, was abducted in 1977 at age 13, told a news conference at a lawmakers’ office building. “I want the government to deal sternly with North Korea in line with the law’s objectives.”

His wife, Sakie, 70, said: “I’m very pleased. Let’s just hope that it will have an effect and lead to an early resolution of the abduction issue.”

The law defines the resolution of the abduction issue as a duty for the government and calls for it to thoroughly investigate the issue and do whatever it can to bring any remaining abductees home.

It obliges the government to take “necessary measures,” including imposing financial sanctions under the foreign exchange law, if no improvement is seen in North Korea’s human rights situation. The law also requires the state to support people who fled from North Korea and supply information and financial support to nongovernmental organizations helping those defectors.

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