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The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc will press ahead with a bill for expected Diet passage this session that will allow Japan to inspect vessels sailing to or from North Korea, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The inspections, to be conducted in both Japanese territorial waters and on the high seas, would be in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted last week urging member states to engage in such actions.

After a meeting of LDP and New Komeito executives, LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters the parties will launch a project team Wednesday and make utmost efforts to get the bill passed.

The U.N. Security Council resolution calls on all states to inspect vessels on the high seas, with the consent of the country whose flag the vessel is flying, if there are reasonable grounds to believe the cargo includes nuclear or missile-related items.

It was adopted to punish Pyongyang for its May 25 nuclear test, the North’s second.

Yoshio Urushibara, chief of New Komeito’s Diet affairs committee, told reporters separately the bill is likely to clear the Diet by July 28, when the extended session ends, since the Democratic Party of Japan is expected to support it.

JCG: checks OK

STAFF REPORT

Inspecting North Korean ships at sea should be more manageable than hunting pirates off Somalia, Japan Coast Guard Commandant Teiji Iwasaki said Tuesday in Tokyo.

To make good on the U.N. resolution it pressed for, the government is preparing to submit a bill to allow inspection of North Korean ships by the coast guard or the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Iwasaki acknowledged the new mission should be easier than the one off Somalia, where eight coast guard officers are working aboard two MSDF destroyers to protect Japan-related vessels from pirates.

“Unlike the pirates who are equipped with rocket launchers, we don’t imagine a scenario that includes the exchange of shots with North Korean vessels,” Iwasaki said, adding that the proximity of North Korean ships to Japan is a plus.

Despite Iwasaki’s remarks, the coast guard engaged in a shootout with a North Korean spy boat off Kyushu in December 2001. The vessel sank, whether from returned fire or by self-destruction, and went down with all hands. Japan later salvaged the vessel and displayed it.

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