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The Justice Ministry on Thursday granted visas to 10 North Korean athletes and their coach to attend the Synchronized Swimming World Cup 2006 in Yokohama but rejected three others in the group, officials said.

The athletes are the first North Koreans to get visas since Japan tightened immigration policy as part of sanctions against the North brought on by the test-launching of seven missiles July 5.

The three who were rejected were the head of the delegation, a manager and an interpreter, the officials said.

They were to accompany the group to the world championships, which begin Thursday.

Since the missiles were launched, the Justice Ministry has rejected visa requests from a group of five people who wanted to come to Japan to request the repatriation of the remains of relatives brought to Japan for slave labor during the war.

The ministry also refused six North Koreans who were scheduled to participate in an international congress of religious leaders in Kyoto.

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