The Japanese government enacted into law several bills Friday designed to put the screws to North Korea.

Japan is cracking down on the amount of money that may be brought or sent to North Korea in the form of remittances. The amount that may be remitted to North Korea without notifying the government has been lowered from 10 million yen to three million yen. The amount that may be brought from Japan to North Korea in cash has been lowered from 300,000 yen to 100,000 yen.

(Note: as of 5/29/10 the exchange rate is $1 USD = 90 yen.)

Koreans are Japan’s largest ethnic group outside of Japanese, constituting just under a million people. While one might automatically assume these Koreans would mainly have ties to South Korea, in fact a great many of them have strong cultural, political, and economic ties to North Korea. A number of Japanese Koreans send remittances to North Korea. How much of a cut the government takes–if any–is unknown, as is the annual remittance amount total. It’s said to be significant, but then again, with a GDP of only $30 billion USD, only a few million USD sent to North Korea would be significant.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had called for early passage of the bill after the finding as Japan has lagged behind other countries in passing legislation to implement the punitive steps, due partly to the change of power last September.

Also due, I’m guessing, to the single issue that has dominated Japanese foreign policy for the last seven months.

Another bill enacted today allows the Japan Coast Guard and Japanese customs to board vessels going to and from North Korea suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or WMD-related materials. There’s a catch, though:

Under the law, the coast guard and customs authorities can board and inspect ships, basically with the consent of the skipper and the flag state, if they are suspected to be carrying banned items, including those related to biological, chemical and conventional weapons, to and from North Korea.

So if the ship captain says “No, you can’t board my ship,” Japanese authorities can’t do anything. That having been said, if a ship does refuse boarding, the Japanese would certainly inform others of the captain’s lack of cooperation and that ship would receive extra special attention from the international community.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch