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Japanese Police Raid North Korea-Related Facilities


A special Japanese police unit has raided facilities connected to North Korea, the latest of a series of efforts to limit illegal exports to the country. As VOA's Steve Herman reports from Tokyo, Japan has been increasing pressure on North Korea since it tested a nuclear weapon.

Japanese police received a hostile reception Monday morning at the offices of the North Korean citizens' group in Japan.

Officials of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan tried to block police from raiding their Tokyo area head office. Riot police were called in to clear the way.

Police say they are investigating an unauthorized attempt to smuggle 60 bags of intravenous solutions to North Korea six months ago.

An elderly Korean woman allegedly smuggled the bags, given to her by a Tokyo doctor, onto a North Korean-bound vessel. Japanese customs officers seized the bags of nutritional solution before the ship departed, because she did not have a license to export them.

Japanese media say the liquids could have been used to make biochemical weapons. A spokesman for the association, who asks to be identified only as Mr. Jon, says that is not true.

"Japanese media say that, but actually that is completely false," Jon said.

Police raided facilities in Tokyo and the city of Niigata affiliated with the association, known as Chosen Soren in Japanese and as Chongryon in Korean.

Several hundred thousand ethnic Koreans live in Japan, many of them descendants of workers brought to the country during Tokyo's colonial rule over Korea in the early 20th century. Thousands of them are sympathetic to North Korea.

Chongryon's offices have been regarded as de facto North Korean diplomatic facilities and considered off-limits to law enforcement. Japan and North Korea have never established official ties.

Chongryon spokesman, Jon, says official scrutiny of the group has risen since Shinzo Abe, seen as a hardliner toward Pyongyang, became prime minister in late September.

"This anti-Korean residents' trend in Japan has increased after Abe has power," he said.

In the past several months, North Korea has raised concern in Japan by testing missiles and a nuclear device. Pyongyang also has refused to address Japanese questions about its citizens kidnapped by North Korea decades ago.

Japan imposed trade and financial restrictions on North Korea and has halted shipping to the communist state following Pyongyang's nuclear test last month.

Since the nuclear test, Koreans say they have faced new discrimination in Japan and many facilities within ethnic-Korean communities, such as schools, have suffered vandalism attacks.

Police in August arrested a pro-North Korea resident here for allegedly exporting to the communist state machinery that could be used to make biological weapons.

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