• Kyodo

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Amid heightened tensions with North Korea following its latest nuclear test last Friday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is looking for ways to escalate unilateral sanctions against the hermit state, an LDP source has said.

Among these are an expansion of the re-entry ban on senior members of a pro-Pyongyang residents group that visits North Korea, the source said.

The LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also plans to ask the United States to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the source.

More high-ranking officials of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) would be added to the re-entry ban list under the LDP’s envisioned new measures, which would also include ensuring a halt in trade with North Korea through a third country, the source said Wednesday.

Japan’s move for tougher punitive measures against North Korea comes after the latter carried out its fifth nuclear test on Friday in defiance of its international obligations, drawing condemnation from all quarters. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have also been stoked by Pyongyang’s multiple ballistic missile launches this year.

Under the LDP’s new proposals, several hundred senior members of Chongryon would be added to the list of people who are barred from re-entering Japan, and existing rules on allowing remittances of up to ¥100,000 ($970) to North Korea only for humanitarian purposes will also be made stricter, the source said.

In the absence of diplomatic ties between Japan and North Korea, the association’s headquarters in Tokyo function as North Korea’s de facto embassy.

The proposed changes — including those that were excluded from Japan’s latest tightening of sanctions announced in February following the North’s fourth nuclear test and a ballistic missile launch — will likely be reflected in new proposals the LDP will draft on Friday and later present to the government, including a ban in principle on all remittances to North Korea.

The government is also considering expanding asset freezes for individuals and groups suspected of being involved in North Korea’s nuclear arms and missile programs, the source said.

However, a senior member of the LDP questioned the effectiveness of the envisioned sanctions, indicating there is “nothing new” about the party’s proposal, as Japan has already imposed many sanctions following North Korea’s various provocations.

The planned sanctions may also anger North Korea and prompt it to take a tougher stance toward Tokyo on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang’s agents decades ago.

In February, North Korea said it was suspending its probe into the abductions in response to Japan’s tougher sanctions following its nuclear and missile tests.

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