Japan urges Mideast to stop accepting North Korea migrant workers in bid to squeeze funds to Pyongyang


Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Monday urged Middle Eastern nations not to accept migrant workers from North Korea to prevent the country from obtaining funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In a speech at a ministerial political dialogue in Egypt between Japan and members of the Arab League, Kono stressed the importance of bolstering pressure on Pyongyang to curb its provocations that have threatened security in East Asia.

It was the first time that Japan and the Arab League, which groups 21 Middle Eastern and African nations as well as the Palestinian territory, have held a political dialogue at a ministerial level.

Kono pointed out that some countries in the Middle East have accepted workers from North Korea and their wages have become a source of foreign currency for Pyongyang.

North Korea said through its official media on Sept. 3 that it successfully tested an advanced hydrogen bomb and now has the ability to adjust the power of a nuclear warhead, depending on the attack target. It was its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Pyongyang previously performed a nuclear test in September last year and has continued to launch ballistic missiles in defiance of international warnings, including two intercontinental ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in July and one that flew over Japan into the Pacific Ocean late last month.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Monday on a resolution toughening sanctions on Pyongyang, with the United States proposing restrictions on oil exports to North Korea.

As for future relations between Japan and Middle Eastern countries, Kono expressed eagerness to make efforts to boost bilateral ties in the political and security fields.

Kono said peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific cannot be achieved without countries in the in Middle East, suggesting Japan is ready to increase maritime cooperation with Arab countries with an eye on China’s assertive moves in the East and South China seas.

The foreign minister meanwhile said he is considering attending an international conference on Middle Eastern security, scheduled to take place in December in Bahrain.

He also pledged Japan will provide humanitarian assistance totaling around $25 million to four countries including Iraq and Syria, in which many refugees have been created due to conflict.

Ahead of the political dialogue, Kono held talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry. Egypt is currently serving as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Kono is on a six-day trip through Wednesday to Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, his first visit to the region since he became foreign minister last month.