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April 10, 2007 -- Japan says it has decided to extend sanctions against North Korea for six more months, as Pyongyang faces a deadline to shut down its main nuclear reactor.
The Japanese sanctions were first imposed after North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006 and include a ban that prevents Japan from accepting imports from the impoverished North Korea.
North Korea in February agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor and accept UN inspectors at the site by April 14. But it has refused to move ahead on the agreement amid a dispute over bank funds frozen under U.S. sanctions.
The United States says authorities in Macau are prepared to release the funds, which were frozen due to U.S. concerns about money laundering.
North Korea insists it must receive the $25 million before it will begin to implement a February 13 agreement that gave it 60 days to shut its nuclear facilities in return for energy aid.
The top U.S. nuclear negotiator for North Korea expressed hope today that the deadline can still be met.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said in Seoul that this will be a "very important week" for North Korea. Hill said Pyongyang faces a "very uncertain future" if it doesn't begin the process of denuclearization.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is in Seoul today for talks expected to cover North Korea's nuclear program. .
(AFP, AP, Reuters)