July 7, 2006

N.Korea demands Japan lift sanctions: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - North Korea has demanded that Japan end
sanctions it has imposed in reaction to Pyongyang's missile
launches, threatening "stronger action" if Tokyo continues with
the measures, Japanese media said on Friday.

"Japan is translating its criticism against us into
action," Kyodo news agency quoted Song Il-ho, North Korea's
ambassador in charge of diplomatic normalisation talks with
Japan, as telling Japanese reporters in Pyongyang.

"This may force us to take stronger physical actions," as a
response, he said. Asked what the steps may be, he said, "I
leave that to your imagination," Kyodo reported.

Japan banned a North Korean ferry from entering Japanese
ports for six months as part of a package of initial sanctions
following Pyongyang's launch of a series of missiles that
landed in the Japan Sea on Wednesday.

The ferry, the only regular direct link between Japan and
North Korea, is an important conduit for carrying money to the
isolated communist state.

Tokyo and Washington are pushing for a U.N. Security
Council resolution on North Korea, and Tokyo has also said it
is considering further unilateral sanctions, including limiting
cash remittances.

"It is very unfortunate, and I feel indignant," Japan's top
government spokesman told reporters on Friday, when asked about
the comments.

"I want them to think about who created the reason for
relations being in their current state," Chief Cabinet
Secretary Shinzo Abe said.

If disputes over North Korea's nuclear program, as well as
its missile launches and its abduction of Japanese citizens
were not resolved, Pyongyang's economic difficulties and food
and energy shortages would not be relieved, Abe added.

The poverty-stricken North abducted at least 13 Japanese
citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. Five of
them have returned to Japan, and Tokyo wants details on the
fate of the remaining eight, who Pyongyang says have died.

Song described Japan's sanctions against North Korea as
"unspeakable," saying Pyongyang should be punishing Tokyo for
its 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Kyodo said.

Japan's sanctions "could bring about devastating
consequences, the entire responsibility for which would rest
with Japan," Kyodo quoted Song as saying.