Japan on Wednesday imposed a total ban on North Korean imports and said ships from the impoverished nation were prohibited from entering Japanese ports as punishment for its apparent nuclear test.
North Korean nationals are also prohibited from entering Japan, with limited exceptions, the Cabinet Office said in a statement released after an emergency security meeting late Wednesday.
"Japan is in gravest danger, if we consider that North Korea has advanced both its missile and nuclear capabilities," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters following the decision.
"We cannot tolerate North Korea's actions if we are to protect Japanese lives and property," he said. "These measures were taken to protect the peace."
A total ban on imports and ships could be disastrous for North Korea, whose produce like clams and mushroom 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.
Japan has reason to react sternly. It lies well within the range of North Korean missiles, though Pyongyang isn't believed capable yet of mounting one with a nuclear weapon. Tokyo has also been exasperated by Pyongyang's kidnappings of Japanese nationals in the 1970's and 80's, which the North only admitted to several years ago, reports AP.
Some within the region have raised concerns that the North's brinkmanship could give Japan a pretext to go nuclear next, triggering countermoves by suspicious Asian neighbors. Abe, however, has insisted Tokyo will stick to its postwar no-nuclear weapons policy.
The North on Wednesday lashed out at the prospect of further economic sanctions.