TOKYO - Japan has announced a total ban on North Korean imports. North Korean ships will not be allowed in Japanese ports and most North Korean nationals will not be permitted to enter Japan.
Japan took the steps Wednesday to punish North Korea for its apparent nuclear test. Japan's Cabinet Office made the announcement after an emergency security meeting late Wednesday.
A total ban on imports and ships could be disastrous for North Korea, whose produce like clams and mushrooms earns precious foreign currency on the Japanese market. Ferries also serve as a major conduit of communication between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations.
Tokyo has already halted food aid and imposed limited financial sanctions against North Korea after it test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula in July, including one capable of reaching the United States.
Earlier Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hisayasu Shiozaki demanded that Pyongyang return immediately and unconditionally to the six-party nuclear talks, and honor promises to freeze its missile program and strengthen regional peace under a 2002 bilateral pact.
The North has boycotted the six-way talks on its nuclear program, which also involve the United States, China, South Korea and Russia, due to anger over separate financial sanctions imposed by Washington.
"It's vital that North Korea return to negotiations," Shiozaki said. "I urge North Korea to ... put our agreements in place one by one."
Shiozaki added he was skeptical about reports in local media that said tremors had been detected suggesting North Korea detonated a second nuclear device Wednesday morning. Some analysts say the North Korean regime may conduct more tests amid suspicion the first, relatively small explosion might have partially failed.
But both Shiozaki and Abe later said they had not seen any data to confirm a further test, a position seconded by the White House.
The North lashed out earlier in the day at the prospect of further sanctions.
"The enemy schemes to destroy us through economic lockout... but that is merely a foolish illusion," an editorial published by the state-run Rodong Sinmun was quoted as saying Wednesday by Radio Press.
Meanwhile, Japanese military aircraft continued to monitor for radioactivity in the atmosphere, but reported no abnormal readings Wednesday. Officials have said any fallout from Monday's blast, believed to have been equivalent to hundreds of tons of TNT, could hit Japan this week.
The government also said seismic activity detected on Monday was significantly different from that caused by an earthquake, but stopped short of confirming a nuclear detonation. Determining conclusively whether the North did set off a nuclear device could take several more days, if not weeks, according to the Meteorological Agency.