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Japan Renews Sanctions on North Korea

Japan will renew economic sanctions on Pyongyang, following North Korea's rocket launch. Japan and the United States are pushing the United Nations Security Council to condemn the launch, which they say was a cover-up to test a long-range missile, but any new resolution seems unlikely.

The sanctions, which were first imposed on North Korea in 2006, were set to expire on Monday.

But following the launch of what Pyongyang says was a communications satellite into orbit, a claim that Tokyo, Seoul and Washington all dispute, the Japanese cabinet extended the sanctions for another year.

The embargo blocks imports from North Korea and forbids its citizens or vessels from entering Japan. Tokyo is also tightening control over the amount of yen that can be transferred to North Korea. And while many luxury items such as high-priced seafood and electronics are subject to the sanctions, an all-out ban on exports to Pyongyang was ruled out.

But analysts say these measures put very little pressure on Pyongyang.

"North Korea wasn't getting much from Japan, a lot of the support that the North Koreans were getting from pro-North Korean residents in Japan had melted down earlier, so it's fairly minor, if not insignificant," said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University in Tokyo.

Tokyo has so far lobbied in vain for the United Nations Security Council to condemn North Korea's rocket launch last weekend.

News reports here say that the five permanent members of the Security Council are moving toward adopting a statement that expresses concern over the launch. However, they are not likely to expand sanctions.

Dujarric says the Security Council members have more pressing matters to be concerned with.

"I think the feeling everywhere is, there is an economic meltdown, very dangerous things happening in the economic field," he said. "North Korea is not a life-or-death threat, so rather than jack-up the pressure, risk North Korea collapse, risk an escalation, let's just tell them they are bad boys and let's forget about it"

Earlier this week, North Korea's U.N. ambassador pledged unspecific retaliation if the Security Council adopts any resolution or statement criticizing his nation. Pyongyang maintains it has the right to conduct tests aimed at exploring outer space.