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Page last updated at 02:52 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 03:52 UK

Japan renews sanctions on N Korea

Image grab of North Korean TV showing apparent rocket launch
Pyongyang says it put a satellite into orbit in Sunday's controversial launch

Japan has renewed unilateral economic sanctions against North Korea for another year over its rocket launch but stopped short of banning exports.

It did decide to tighten money flows, lowering the cap on remittances to the impoverished country.

North Korea says Sunday's launch put a satellite in orbit but Japan and others say it was a cover for a missile test.

Reports from New York suggest that the Security Council is deadlocked over how to respond to the launch.

Japan and the US are pushing for a resolution which would reinforce and possibly extend existing sanctions against North Korea, applied in the wake of the country's nuclear test in 2006.

But China and Russia have been more cautious, saying they are yet to be convinced Pyongyang broke any rules.

Fund flow controls

Japan's own sanctions against North Korea, in place since 2006, had been due to expire on Monday.

A cabinet meeting early on Friday decided to extend them for another year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

Kim Jong-il in parliament ( April 9th)

The government had planned to impose a total ban on exports to North Korea but finally pulled back from the measure.

It was felt that the effectiveness of such a ban would be limited, given that the value of exports to North Korea were around several hundred million yen (several million US dollars) each year, government sources told Kyodo news agency.

Discussing the lowering of the cap on remittances, Mr Kawamura said that Japan wanted to get a "clearer grasp of fund flows to North Korea".

Smaller money transfers to the communist state would in future have to be reported to the Japanese government, he added.

A meeting of the Security Council broke up without result on Thursday, unnamed diplomats told the Associated Press news agency.

The US favoured a council statement as the quickest way to punish North Korea, while Japan preferred a full resolution which would name companies believed to be helping Pyongyang with its missile tests, the agency said.

"The work continues and we'll keep you posted," US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said after the 45-minute meeting.

Kim reappears

In the wake of the launch, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il made a triumphant return to centre stage after months out of sight following a reported stroke last year.

He was given a standing ovation by the Supreme People's Assembly and was reappointed as the chairman of the National Defence Commission, the country's most powerful position.

The session coincided with a separate announcement that North Korea was to revise its constitution.

No details have yet been given but there is speculation that the changes may be linked to who succeeds Mr Kim.



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