Australia, Japan roll out curbs on Pyongyang

Joong Ang Daily
Ser Myo-ja, Lee Sang-il

Japan and Australia yesterday announced new sanctions against North Korea in another sign of increased financial pressure on the communist state, which has declared it possesses nuclear arms.

The announced purpose of the sanctions was to push Pyongyang back to six-party talks in Beijing to disarm the country in return for diplomatic recognition and financial aid.

In Washington, U.S. officials also signaled that additional sanctions against the North may be in store.

In Tokyo, the cabinet approved a partial freeze on North Korean assets in Japan, imposing restrictions on 15 North Korean agencies or companies and one individual.

“This shows the resolve of the international community and Japan,” said Shinzo Abe, the chief cabinet secretary and heir-apparent to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The restrictions on financial transactions were directed, Tokyo said, at figures related to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

After North Korea test-launched a barrage of missiles in early July, Tokyo barred the entry of a North Korean ship to its ports for six months and forbade the entry of North Korean government officials into Japan.

Australia, one of the few Western countries that had diplomatic relations with North Korea, acted the same day, imposing similar bans on financial transactions by people and companies it said were involved in North Korean arms programs.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the press, “This supports and complements similar action taken by Japan today and previous actions taken by the United States, and sends a strong message to North Korea.”

In Washington, a State Department official told Korean journalists in a background briefing that the United States might reimpose sanctions lifted after an accord in 1994, which temporarily reduced tensions over the North’s nuclear programs. He said a proposal to restore the sanctions existing before 1994 was being studied. The relaxation was modest; U.S. companies were allowed to offer telephone service to North Korea and import some raw materials.

In Seoul, Song Min-soon, the Blue House senior security advisor, reacted cautiously to the announcements, saying it would be “inappropriate” to comment on sanctions imposed by other governments. He said the matter was one for capitals to decide, based on a United Nations Security Council resolution critical of North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and those nations’ own laws.

Separately, Beijing rebuffed a U.S. invitation to a meeting Thursday of financial ministers in New York to discuss North Korea.

From the BBC:
New sanctions target North Korea

Japan and Australia have announced new financial sanctions against North Korea, stepping up pressure on the secretive state over missile tests.

The sanctions will freeze the transfer of money to North Korea by groups suspected of having links to its nuclear or missile programmes.

The move, which follows similar action by the US, comes after Pyongyang launched several missiles in July.

South Korea has urged other countries not to push the North into a corner.

The South is worried that the North may retaliate by carrying out a nuclear test, which would destroy any remaining hope of a diplomatic solution to the stand-off.

Japanese government spokesman Shinzo Abe said the new sanctions were in line with a United Nations resolution which denounced the missile tests.

The Japanese measures affect 15 groups and one individual, and will come into effect later on Tuesday, according to Japanese media.

The Australian measures applied to 12 companies and one person, according to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who said the sanctions were “consistent with our strong international stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Media reports said the two lists were almost identical.

Tough stance

North Korea’s decision to test-fire seven missiles in July – including a long-range Taepodong-2 which is believed to be capable of reaching Alaska – angered the international community.

A UN resolution demanded that North Korea suspend its ballistic missile programme, and barred all UN member states from supplying North Korea with material related to missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

In the immediate aftermath, Japan imposed limited sanctions, including a decision to ban a North Korean trade ferry from Japanese ports and a moratorium on charter flights from Pyongyang.

The new measures also called for closer scrutiny of those wanting to send money or transfer financial assets to North Korea.

“By taking these measures, we have demonstrated the resolve of the international community and Japan,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

“I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the UN Security Council resolution in a sincere manner.”

The BBC correspondent in Tokyo, Chris Hogg, says there is still some doubt about how effective these sanctions will be.

Although Japan looks to be clamping down on North Korea, other countries that exert a strong influence on the country – notably China and South Korea – are reluctant to impose similar measures.

Following the Japanese announcement, China restated its opposition to sanctions and called for further dialogue.

Nuclear fears

In addition to fears over North Korea’s missile programmes, the international community is also worried about its nuclear intentions.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have repeatedly tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear programme.

But the so-called six-party talks have been on hold since November 2005, because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifted economic restrictions against it.

Exactly a year ago, North Korea agreed in principle to give up its nuclear weapons programme in return for economic help and security guarantees.

The move was greeted by surprise and relief, but a joint statement issued at the time failed to bridge the wide gulf between North Korea and the US. One year on, the North remains as isolated as ever.

The region remains on alert in case Pyongyang decides to follow up on the July ballistic missile tests with a nuclear test.

Analysts say the North has enough plutonium for several bombs, but has yet to prove it can build a reliable weapon.


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