Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe on Tuesday defended Japan’s rejection of requests by five North Koreans to enter the country, saying the action was appropriate in view of stricter regulations imposed following Pyongyang’s July 5 missile launches.

A senior government official said the government has information that some of the five are strongly linked to Pyongyang’s intelligence activities against Japan.

Abe dismissed criticism the rejection violated the would-be entrants’ human rights.

“This case falls under the nine measures implemented in light of the missile launches, and the decision was made after considering various factors comprehensively,” the top government spokesman said at a news conference. “There is no problem either from a humanitarian or human rights point of view.”

Chongryun, the pro-Pyongyang group also known as the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, criticized the Justice Ministry’s decision to refuse entry to the five people, calling it “unprecedented.”

Asked to comment on Chongryun’s criticism, Abe said, “If you want to talk about the humanitarian and human rights issues, I hope you would speak to North Korea.”

This appeared to be a reference to North Korea’s abductions Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, and its overall poor human rights record.

“This (decision to refuse entry) was the result of strict screening of whether their activities fit the (stated) purpose of entry,” Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura said. “Immigration screening must be carried out strictly in compliance with laws and regulations.”

Another pro-Pyongyang group in Japan that has been backing the five North Koreans’s bid said it has urged the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the government decision.

Those denied entry included three North Koreans seeking the return of the remains of relatives who were forcibly brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula when it was under Japanese rule. The other two are an interpreter and a caregiver.

The group requested entry into Japan on June 12. Tokyo imposed sanctions against the North in retaliation for the July missile launches.

The five were hoping to visit Japan from Thursday through early August to give speeches at meetings of citizens’ groups in Tokyo and Aichi and Osaka prefectures to raise public awareness of the forced labor issue.

The sanctions include denial of entry to North Korean government officials and stepped-up screening of entry requests by other North Koreans.

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