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For the second consecutive time the government has extended its economic sanctions on North Korea another six months from Oct. 14, citing no progress on the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang. Although the extension was unavoidable, the government needs to prepare for its next move given the rapidly changing situation surrounding North Korea.

In the latest round of the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programs, the North agreed to “disable” its 5-megawatt experimental reactor and two other facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and “provide a complete and correct declaration of all nuclear programs” by Dec. 31. Although some points in the agreement are unclear, Japan must consider how it should respond should North Korea follow through with its promise. In such a case, other members of the six-party talks are likely to ask Japan to extend assistance to North Korea. Japan must determine whether it can reject such a call by citing a lack of progress on the abduction issue.

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