FUKUOKA — Tokyo’s decision this week to ban overseas remittances to 15 entities and an individual suspected of having links to North Korea’s weapons program have set off calls for even tougher measures to stop the illicit flow of money into the Stalinist state.
Shigeru and Sakie Yokota address a news conference Tuesday in Kawasaki after the government announced it would impose financial sanctions against North Korea.
One Japanese man living in Osaka, who worked for two decades at a North Korean-funded trading company in Japan, said Tuesday’s ban will have only a short-term effect.
“Much of the money that reaches North Korea, especially the North Korean military program, comes via China and Chinese banks. Until China agrees to crack down on these banks and institutions, lots of money will still reach the North Korean military,” said the man, who asked not be named.
Now that the government has banned the transmission of funds to some organizations, the next step is to monitor the sales of products, especially electronics, that might end up in North Korean weapons production.
Japanese firms are not allowed to send certain types of equipment to North Korea, Iran, Iraq or Libya. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is considering revising its regulations to require all firms to tell METI where these products are going, regardless of where they are being shipped, to try to stop them from being routed into the banned countries.
Executives at precision instruments maker Mitutoyo Corp. were arrested last month for exporting two sensitive measuring devices to Malaysia in 2001 that could be used to produce nuclear weapons. One of them was found in a nuclear facility in Libya during 2003 to 2004 weapons inspections. It is believed that others may have ended up in Iran and North Korea.
In another incident, Japanese radar and sonar technology was discovered in a North Korean submarine captured by the South Korean Navy in 1997. Japanese and South Korean officials have speculated that the technology was first exported to other countries and sent on to North Korea.
But there are still firms to be caught here trying to export directly.
Two years ago, in the city of Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefectural Police caught a local trading company attempting to export more than 1,500 electronic devices to North Korea.
“The incident made many people realize just how easy it would be to export goods to North Korea from Fukuoka that might be used for military purposes,” said Matsuo of the group to rescue the abductees.
“But Chongryun has a lot of political influence, and local politicians have done little to crack down on goods being exported to North Korea. They have also been reluctant to take the lead in barring North Korean ships from visiting Fukuoka harbor.”
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