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Japan intends to extend its economic sanctions on North Korea, due to expire April 13, for one year rather than six months if Pyongyang launches a ballistic missile, the government’s top spokesman said Thursday.

By extending the duration of the sanctions to one year from the current six months, Japan “aims to reinforce its stance in seeking progress in dialogue (with North Korea),” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

North Korea claims it will launch a rocket to put a communications satellite into space between Saturday and Wednesday, but Japan and many of its allies believe the North actually plans to test a long-range ballistic missile.

Japan imposed sanctions on the North after Pyongyang tested ballistic missiles in July 2006, and imposed a ban on imports after the North’s nuclear test the following October. The sanctions have since been extended every six months, but are set to expire on April 13.

The government is mulling an additional embargo on exports and restrictions on goods to be carried by those who enter North Korea, Kawamura said.

The Cabinet is expected to approve the extension at its meeting April 10.

Meanwhile, regarding a CNN report that the North has began fueling a rocket, Kawamura said the information has not been confirmed by either the Japanese or U.S. governments and that confirmation procedures are under way.

As the day of the planned launch draws near, the government also met about 120 officials from local municipalities in the Tohoku region, over which the North has said the rocket will fly, to brief them on its risk management policies ahead of the expected launch.

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