japanese fm aso 88.
(photo credit: AP)
Japan on Wednesday imposed a total ban on North Korean imports and said ships from the impoverished nation were prohibited from entering Japanese ports as punishment for its apparent nuclear test.
North Korean nationals are also prohibited from entering Japan, with limited exceptions, the Cabinet Office said in a statement released after an emergency security meeting late Wednesday.
"Japan is in gravest danger, if we consider that North Korea has advanced both its missile and nuclear capabilities," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters following the decision.
"We cannot tolerate North Korea's actions if we are to protect Japanese lives and property," he said. "These measures were taken to protect the peace."
A total ban on imports and ships could be disastrous for North Korea, whose produce like clams and mushroom earns precious foreign currency on the Japanese market. Ferries also serve as a major conduit of communication between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations.
Tokyo has already halted food aid and imposed limited financial sanctions against North Korea after it test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula in July, including one capable of reaching the United States.
Japan has reason to react sternly. It lies well within the range of North Korean missiles, though Pyongyang isn't believed capable yet of mounting one with a nuclear weapon. Tokyo has also been exasperated by Pyongyang's kidnappings of Japanese nationals in the 1970's and 80's, which the North only admitted to several years ago.
Some within the region have raised concerns that the North's brinkmanship could give Japan a pretext to go nuclear next, triggering countermoves by suspicious Asian neighbors. Abe, however, has insisted Tokyo will stick to its postwar no-nuclear weapons policy.
The North on Wednesday lashed out at the prospect of further economic sanctions.
"The enemy schemes to destroy us through economic lockout ... but that is merely a foolish illusion," said an editorial published by the state-run Rodong Sinmun, according to Radio Press.
Earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hisayasu Shiozaki demanded that Pyongyang return immediately and unconditionally to the six-party nuclear talks, and honor promises to freeze its missile program and strengthen regional peace under a 2002 bilateral pact.
The North has boycotted the six-way talks on its nuclear program, which also involve the United States, China, South Korea and Russia, due to anger over separate financial sanctions imposed by Washington.
"It's vital that North Korea return to negotiations," Shiozaki said. "I urge North Korea to ... put our agreements in place one by one."
Shiozaki added he was skeptical about reports in local media that said tremors had been detected suggesting North Korea detonated a second nuclear device Wednesday morning. Some analysts say the North Korean regime may conduct more tests amid suspicion the first, relatively small explosion might have partially failed.
But both Shiozaki and Abe later said they had not seen any data to confirm a further test, a position seconded by the White House.
Meanwhile, Japanese military aircraft continued to monitor for radioactivity in the atmosphere, but reported no abnormal readings Wednesday. Officials have said any fallout from Monday's blast, believed to have been equivalent to hundreds of tons of TNT, could hit Japan this week.
The government also said seismic activity detected on Monday was significantly different from that caused by an earthquake, but stopped short of confirming a nuclear detonation. Determining conclusively whether the North did set off a nuclear device could take several more days, if not weeks, according to defense officials.