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(LEAD) Japan to extend N. Korea sanctions for 2 years

North Korea 18:09 April 09, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks in paras 6-10)

TOKYO, April 9 (Yonhap) -- The Japanese government said Tuesday that it will extend a set of bilateral sanctions on North Korea for two years amid no substantive progress in denuclearization and efforts to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the communist nation decades ago.

"Looking at various situations, (we) assessed what would be most effective," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular press briefing.

Tokyo has imposed a ban on port calls by North Korean ships and foreign vessels that stopped over in the nuclear-armed nation since 2006. Three years later, it added a trade ban and expanded the scope of the ship-entry prohibition, as Pyongyang continued provocative acts.

Japan's decision to maintain sanctions is viewed as reflecting its resolve to keep putting pressure on North Korea despite its recent goodwill gesture related to the human rights issue.

In March, Japan skipped its annual submission to a United Nations panel of a joint resolution condemning North Korea's rights abuses.

Asked whether his government will seek to ease or remove the sanctions in case of progress in negotiations on the abduction issue, Suga avoided a direct answer.

"(We) will respond while analyzing what's most effective," he said.

Speaking again to reporters later in the day, he said, "There's information that total trade volume between North Korea and China decreased around 52 percent in 2018 from the previous year."

He stressed that Japan will endeavor to pull off a "comprehensive resolution" to the abduction issue and nuclear and missile problems.

There's no change in plans to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, he added.

Nuclear talks with North Korea have been in the doldrums since the second Washington-Pyongyang summit ended with no accord in Hanoi in late February. Both sides described the conditions for sanctions relief as a major sticking point.


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