- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TOKYO — Australia and Japan imposed financial sanctions yesterday on 11 North Korean companies and a Swiss company and its president based on charges they helped the communist nation’s weapons programs.

The coordinated effort is meant to pressure North Korea over both its test-firing of long-range missiles in July and its development of nuclear weapons, officials said.

A U.N. Security Council resolution after the missile tests urged nations to forgo trade with North Korea that could help its missile program.

“I do not know how North Korea will respond, but I hope North Korea will accept the U.N. Security Council resolution in a sincere manner and respond to various concerns of the international community,” Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the action was “consistent with our strong international stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

“This supports and complements similar action taken by Japan today and previous actions taken by the United States, and sends a strong message to North Korea,” Mr. Downer said.

China appealed for governments involved in the dispute over North Korea’s weapons programs to show restraint, arguing against sanctions.

“The Chinese government has always held the position that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, and we are opposed to sanctions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. He didn’t refer to Japan or Australia by name.

“Now the situation on the Korean Peninsula is sensitive and complicated. All parties should focus on how to relax the situation, and we hope all parties can keep calm and exercise restraint,” Mr. Qin told reporters.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea have tried to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program at six-nation negotiations that have been on hold since November 2005 because North Korea refuses to attend until Washington lifts financial restrictions.

The sanctions that took effect yesterday target Pyongyang-based trading companies that specialize in high-tech equipment, manufacturing and mining, along with a bank and a hospital.

Also on the list is Kohas AG, a Swiss industrial supply wholesaler, and the company’s president, Jakob Steiger. In March, the United States froze the assets of Kohas and Mr. Steiger, saying they had helped North Korea spread weapons of mass destruction.



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