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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Australia to ban N Korean ships
North Korean ship in Japan on 10 October 2006
Japan has already banned North Korean ships from its ports
Australia is to ban North Korean ships from entering its ports in response to its claimed nuclear bomb test, the foreign minister has announced.

Alexander Downer told Parliament the move would help Australia make a "quite clear contribution" to other sanctions agreed by the UN on Saturday.

The move came as US envoy Christopher Hill arrived in Tokyo for talks on how to enforce the sanctions.

The UN resolution imposes both weapons and financial sanctions on the North.

But despite the unanimous vote, disagreements have emerged between the members of the council.

Beijing has indicated that it still has reservations about carrying out the extensive cargo inspections that Washington says are called for in the resolution.

Ship inspections

Bans sale to, or export from, N Korea of military hardware
Bans sale or export of nuclear and missile related items
Bans sale of luxury goods
Freezes finances and bans travel of anyone involved in nuclear, missile programmes
Allows inspection of cargo to and from N Korea
Stresses new resolution needed for further action

Australia is one of the few countries to have diplomatic relations with North Korea, but its trade ties are limited. In 2005, imports amounted to A$16m ($12m).

"If we are to ban North Korean vessels from visiting Australian ports then I think that will help Australia make a quite clear contribution to the United Nations sanctions regime."

Christopher Hill is expected to spend two days in Japan before heading on to South Korea. Talks will focus on US-Japan co-operation over the North Korean crisis.

Japan, which banned North Korean ships from its ports last week, is looking at whether it can provide logistical support for US vessels if they start trying to inspect cargo ships going to or from North Korea.

The restrictions imposed by Japan's pacifist constitution may require the government to pass new laws to allow that to happen.

In a further diplomatic drive, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in Japan on Wednesday.

She reportedly intends to reassure the country that Washington will provide adequate protection in the event that North Korea obtains a viable nuclear weapon - a message she will later take to South Korea.

'Heavy responsibility'

The UN resolution against North Korea was agreed after lengthy negotiations.

It imposes tough weapons restrictions, targets luxury goods and imposes a travel ban on some North Korean officials.

Christopher Hill talks to journalists in Shanghai on 11 September
Mr Hill will go on to South Korea after talks in Tokyo

It also allows the inspection of cargo vessels going in and out of North Korea for banned materials, although the resolution was weakened slightly at China and Russia's insistence, to make this provision less mandatory.

Beijing's UN envoy, Wang Guangya, said immediately after the vote that China urged countries to "refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tension".

Both Russia and China are concerned that inspections could spark naval confrontations with North Korean boats.

But the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, told American television that China had voted for the sanctions and therefore "China itself now has an obligation to make sure that it complies."

North Korea reacted angrily to the resolution. Its UN envoy, Pak Gil-yon, condemned the move before storming out of the meeting in New York.

The isolated communist state announced on 9 October that it had carried out an underground nuclear test near Gilju in Hamgyong province.

US officials said on Saturday that preliminary results of scientific tests appeared to confirm that that claim was true, but they stressed that more tests were needed to reach a conclusion.

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