Cabinet approves extending sanctions on N. Korea

Other News Materials 10 October 2007 02:51 (UTC +04:00)

( KYODO ) - Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's Cabinet on Tuesday approved the extension of Japan's sanctions on North Korea for another six months starting Sunday, while also expressing its willingness to seek a breakthrough on the issues of Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions and past abductions of Japanese nationals.

The decision to extend all of the sanctions that expire Saturday, including a ban on all North Korean-flagged ships entering Japanese ports and all imports from the country, came on the first anniversary of North Korea's nuclear test.

''We decided that the extension was necessary after comprehensively taking into consideration that there has been no specific progress on the abduction issue as well as the various conditions surrounding North Korea, including the nuclear issue,'' said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

Tokyo imposed the sanctions after the announcement of the nuclear test in October last year and extended the measures in April. Other sanctions, including a ban on port calls by the Mangyongbong-92, a North Korean cargo-passenger ferry which provided the only direct passenger link between Japan and North Korea, had been imposed following ballistic missile launches by North Korea in July 2006.

Machimura told a press conference, ''We renew our demand to North Korea to take specific actions toward resolving the various outstanding issues.''

The top government spokesman said Japan's basic stance of seeking to resolve outstanding issues, including settlement of the unfortunate past, North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, and its nuclear and missile development ambitions, and of realizing the normalization of bilateral ties at an early time remains unchanged.

''As for the steps to be taken by our country, we want to think about it based on the actions that North Korea takes concerning the various outstanding issues, including the abduction issue,'' Machimura added.

On media reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun during their summit talks last week that there are no more abducted Japanese nationals in North Korea, both Machimura and Fukuda said that if North Korea wants to make such an assertion, it should do so clearly in the course of bilateral contacts with Japan.

''If that is the truth, Japan should have been told...so we do not care (about such reports),'' Fukuda said. When asked whether he is willing to meet the North Korean leader, he told reporters, ''It is too early to talk about such things.''

But Fukuda voiced his willingness to go to North Korea if the situation allows, saying it depends on the ongoing negotiations over the abduction issue.

Referring to the reports, Machimura said, ''It is not my understanding that they have made such remarks during Japan-North Korea bilateral talks, at least until now.''

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura downplayed the reports that Kim considers the abduction issue closed, saying, ''That is something which North Korea has always been saying and which we cannot accept.''

Komura told a news conference that it seems that Kim ''also understands the importance of achieving progress in Japan-North Korea relations, so I look forward to ( Pyongyang's) concrete actions to achieve concrete progress through bilateral negotiations.''

On North Korea's claim that eight of the 13 Japanese nationals it abducted have died, Komura reiterated Japan's dissatisfaction with this explanation and said that Pyongyang must fulfill its responsibility to explain the truth and facts before Japan will be convinced.

The foreign minister reiterated Japan's demand that all missing abductees be returned.

A South Korean professor and adviser to Roh who accompanied the president to Pyongyang for the talks with Kim told foreign journalists Monday that the North Korean leader considers the issue of Japanese abducted by the North as over.

Yonsei University professor Moon Jung In said he had heard from a South Korean government source that Kim told Roh there are no more abducted Japanese nationals in North Korea.

North Korea admitted in September 2002, when then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a landmark visit to Pyongyang, that its agents had abducted or lured 13 Japanese nationals to the country, and said that five were alive and eight had died.

The five returned to Japan in October 2002 and were later joined by their families. But the Japanese government is not convinced by North Korea's explanations concerning those Pyongyang claims have died or those it says never entered the country.

Tokyo has been demanding that Pyongyang reopen or newly investigate the cases of 12 of the 17 abductees on Japan's official list -- all except the repatriated five -- as well as return any remaining victims and hand over to Japan those involved in the abductions.