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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
New sanctions target North Korea
Poster denouncing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il - archive picture
North Korea's missile tests led to angry denunciations in Asia
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.

Shinzo Abe - 19/9/06
Japan called on North Korea to accept the UN resolution

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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