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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #189: February 2, 2004

Japan's Lawmakers Pass N Korea Sanctions Bill

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan's Lawmakers Pass N Korea Sanctions Bill"
(by Arirang TV) Chosun Ilbo


The article reports that an amendment to the "Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law" intended to put pressure on North Korea passed the lower house and was being submitted to the upper house where it is expected to pass without hassle.

While the article, and the headline, may not necessarily be false, but tells a very limited facet of the story in an exaggerated manner. It is not necessarily a shortsightedness on the part of the reporter, however. The tone is pretty much the same with Japanese domestic media, that the intention of the amendment is to sanction North Korea, or at least to provide the means to do so, by empowering the government to halt the flow of funds from Japan to, including but limited to, North Korea.

It is also true that the members of the diet who presented the bill promoted it by saying that the amendment would provide leverage for the government in negotiating with North Korea. This sales talk was apparently very effective, as it won affirmative votes from not only the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, but the opposition, the Democratic Party, all of which becoming afraid of being accused for not sympathizing with the abductees and their families. As a small surprise, though with little relevance to the outcome, was that even the Social Democratic Party, which had kept expressing strong admiration toward North Korea and its leaders until a little more than a year ago, voted yes, which left only the Communist Party to oppose the bill.

But let us step back here for a moment from the immediate and passionate political incentives, and see what the amendment means from more legal and structural points of view. In fact, nowhere in the law or the amendment has any reference to North Korea by name.

Without resorting to legalese and keeping it to laymen's terms, the "Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law" used to stipulate that, the government could regulate, limit, or prohibit foreign remittances and investments when, by allowing such transactions, it would;
-- infringe upon international agreements Japan has committed to, or
-- impair peace and security of the international society.

Whereas the first requirement is fairly clear, at least in the procedures to follow, the second is a problem. Who, in the first place, has the right to bring up, and then to decide if something is detrimental to 'world peace'? It has been whispered among the legal circles that a relative resolution at an established international organization such as the UN to enact economic sanctions to a country or region would be necessary to invoke the regulation by the government. This means even if a military attack is initiated by someone against Japan, it would not by its own discretion be able to stop the flow of the funds to the attacker unless and until the UN adopts a resolution that the attacker should be sanctioned.

What was amended this time, in effect, was to change the second condition noted above to regulate funds outflow from the country. So that the government could limit fund transfers when, by allowing such transaction, it would;
-- impair peace and security of Japan or the international society.

From legally inclined point of view, this amendment only confirms a too obvious right, or rather an obligation, of a regime, to retain the potency to stop providing money to those who attack its own land and people.

Let us hope that no state is indeed aspiring to act hostile against Japan.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications