July 18, 2006

Japan looks into more sanctions against N.Korea

By George Nishiyama

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has begun work on possible
financial sanctions against North Korea over its missile tests,
but said a decision on implementation would be taken in concert
with other countries and depend on Pyongyang's behavior.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said on Tuesday that
government officials were looking into ways to impose
restrictions on financial assets and fund flows to North Korea.

"The purpose is to get North Korea to abandon its
development of ballistic missiles. We need to work in the
international arena and I believe restrictions on the
transferal of funds will be important and effective," Tanigaki
told a news conference.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso said separately that any action
would depend on North Korea's future behavior.

A 2004 law allows Japan to limit fund remittances to North
Korea, mostly from pro-Pyongyang Korean residents of Japan, a
source of badly needed foreign currency for the North.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday for
a resolution demanding North Korea halt its ballistic missile
program and requiring nations to prevent Pyongyang from
acquiring dangerous weapons.

Japan has reacted strongly to North Korea's barrage of
missiles, saying Pyongyang's arsenal of hundreds of missiles
that can reach all of Japan poses a threat to its national

Many Japanese, outraged by the kidnapping of Japanese
citizens decades ago by Pyongyang's agents to help train spies,
favor tough measures.

Analysts said, though, that any steps to curb the fund flow
from Japan would be symbolic.

"In terms of the amount of money, it would not have a
serious impact on North Korea's economy," said Noriyuki Suzuki,
director of the Tokyo-based Radiopress agency, which monitors
North Korean media.

The amount of remittances from Japan to North Korea was 280
million yen ($2.40 million) in the business year that ended in
March, up from 107 million yen the year before, according to
the Finance Ministry.

In addition to the remittances, a total of 2.76 billion yen
was hand-carried directly by individuals to North Korea, the
ministry data showed, but Suzuki said most of the money was for
relatives living in the North and did not end up in state

Japan has already imposed a number of measures against
North Korea following its multiple missile firings on July 5,
including a six-month ban on the entry of a passenger ferry,
the only direct passenger link between the two countries and
the main route for hand-carried hard currency to reach North

(Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka and Chikako Endo)