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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
N Korea to face Japan sanctions
Relatives of Japanese abduction victims appeal for support 09/11/2004
The issue of missing abductees is a sensitive one in Japan
Japan's parliament has passed a bill calling for economic sanctions against North Korea unless a dispute over kidnapped Japanese citizens is solved.

The North Korea Human Rights Bill calls for sanctions to be imposed if no progress is made on the abduction and other human rights issues.

It could be enacted by Friday, as both ruling and opposition parties back it.

But the bill does not specify how progress would be assessed or set a deadline for imposing sanctions.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been cautious on the issue of imposing sanctions against North Korea in the past, analysts say.

"The government will take into consideration international trends comprehensively," the bill said.

The sanctions would include money transfers from North Koreans in Japan, an important source of funds for the North.

'Worst phase'

The bill was passed just hours after North Korea warned Japan against continuing to bring up the abduction issue.

As already clarified by the DPRK more than once, the 'abduction issue' had been completely settled
North Korean spokesman

A spokesman from the North Korean Foreign Ministry said that relations between the two nations were at "the worst phase in history".

The spokesman said the blame lay with Japan for its attempts to internationalise the abduction issue, state news agency KCNA reported.

Pyongyang has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s and used them to train its agents.

Five of the 13 abductees were allowed to return to Japan in October 2002, but North Korea said that the other 8 people had died.

It says the issue has now been resolved.

"As already clarified by the DPRK more than once, the 'abduction issue' had been completely settled thanks to its sincere efforts," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

But Japan believes North Korea is not being completely honest about whether the abductees are still alive and how many of its citizens it abducted.

The issue has sparked public anger in Japan and has dogged relations between the two countries for years.

Japan steps up N Korea pressure
28 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Mystery of Japan abductee deepens
11 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
N Korea kidnap families protest
24 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
N Korea abductions row 'settled'
18 Jan 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan fury over abductee remains
08 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Heartbreak over Japan's missing
11 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific

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