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. Japan to extend sanctions against NKorea: report
TOKYO, March 30 (AFP) Mar 30, 2007
Japan will extend sanctions against North Korea when they expire in mid-April to keep the pressure on Pyongyang over its abductions of Japanese nationals, a report said Friday.

The continued tough line would come despite an increasingly conciliatory approach by the United States, which has agreed to a six-way deal providing fuel aid in return for North Korea freezing its nuclear programme.

Japan has taken the hardest line at the six-way talks and has refused to fund the deal, saying it will not help North Korea until the kidnapping dispute is resolved.

In October last year, the Japanese government barred all imports from North Korea -- including money-makers such as clams, crabs and high-end matsutake mushrooms -- for six months.

The government has decided to extend the sanctions by another six months "in order to draw a sincere response" from North Korea on the kidnapping row, Jiji Press said, quoting an unnamed government source.

No immediate confirmation was available.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has built his career campaigning for North Korea to resolve the row over its kidnappings of at least 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, who were abducted to help train North Korean spies.

Pyongyang returned five victims and their families and says the rest are dead, but Japan maintains that they are alive and kept under wraps because they know too many secrets.

Abe has brushed off concerns that his hardline stance could isolate Tokyo from close ally Washington.

"If they want to lift the sanctions, they must ... resolve the kidnappings issue with concrete actions," Abe said earlier this month.

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