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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #367: October 12, 2006

Japan Announces New Sanctions against N.Korea

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japan Announces New Sanctions against N.Korea
(Chisa Fujita) Reuters


As he had casually indicated earlier, Prime Minister Abe was quick in responding to the announcement by N.Korea of test-blasting their nuclear bomb, and its declaration saying more is to follow. A new set of sanctions against N.Korea, on top of what has been in effect since its missile launches in July, were announced on Wednesday, to be formalized on Friday.

The new set of sanctions is in three aspects.

First is the total ban of imports from N.Korea. The measure in July in this regard was not to change the written rules but to enforce the existing ones stringently so as to suppress any leeway and stop smuggling. One of the apparent side effects is said to be demonstrated by the recent surge of illegal narcotics prices, indicating significant decrease of supply from N.Korea.

Japan imported $133 million worth of products from the North in 2005, mostly sea and agricultural produce, coal, and other raw materials. It may not be much compared to trade volumes between healthy countries, but N.Korea will be losing its valuable opportunity to earn hard cash it constantly craves for.

The second is to ban any N.Korean ship to enter Japan's ports. The measure adopted in July was to prohibit just one ship, Mangyongbong, offering regular ferry service between the two countries, to be banned from operation. The measure was more of a symbolical - aka political - nature than to seek real effect. In fact, hundreds of smaller N.Korean ships continued to dock at Japanese ports after July.

The rest of previous sanctions, such as the suspension of food aid and the financial sanctions in a limited form (setting a cap to the amount transferable there) will remain.

While the Japanese people apparently acknowledge these measures calmly as an obvious outcome, there are arguments against imposing sanctions against N.Korea.

One of the arguments is that N.Korea was cornered by the U.S. and its allies, including Japan, into committing such retaliatory actions as the missile-launch and the nuclear blast. They say that the most desirable and effective policy for Japan in coping with N.Korea has been to assist its economic growth, by thus making it unnecessary for N.Korea to take hostile stance against others. The idea in fact enjoyed a certain level of support until the revelation of kidnapping of Japanese citizens by N.Korea in 2002, which turned many of those supporters' backs. After a succession of dishonest replies from N.Korea regarding the fate of the victims, and the failure of the Sunshine Policy so strongly pursued by South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun, diminished the number of supporters of this argument to a handful. In addition, some critics point to the fault of this argument as being the same logic used in the attempt to justify Japan's actions in starting the war against the world almost three-quarters of a century ago.

Another argument often heard opposing sanctions is that adoptable measures by Japan would not have much real effect in seeking tangible results. This is obviously correct, to an extent. As N.Korean officials reportedly responded, probably it can survive without Japan. That is exactly why a shared perception of the situation and a concerted action by the international society is being sought intently. Besides, as a matter of principle, should you refrain from voicing your strong belief, for the reason that you feel your single vote would be too feeble in affecting the policy and the course of the whole?

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