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AM - Friday, 13 October , 2006 08:20:00 Reporter: Shane McLeod
TONY EASTLEY: While diplomats and governments debate how best to punish North Korea over its claimed nuclear test, Japan has already made a move, on mushrooms. It mightn't seem like much, but it's a culinary sanction, which will leave a bad taste in the mouth of North Korea's elite.
As North Asia correspondent Shane McLeod reports, the sanctions will likely hurt North Korea's main export products, nearly all of them sought after delicacies in neighbouring Japan.
SHANE MCLEOD: The matsutake mushroom is a much sought-after piece of fungus. It grows only in the shade of red pine trees and it's so difficult to cultivate, that the right Japanese-grown specimen might sell for more than $100. Cheap North Korean imports have been helping to sate Japan's matsutake appetite, accounting for 30 per cent of the local market.
But with Japan threatening tough new sanctions on imports from North Korea, the nations mushroom sellers and buyers are getting worried.
"I think shipments of matsutake mushrooms from North Korea probably ended today," wholesaler Shigetaka Matsui says.
"The situation is very serious. I'll no longer be able to provide the numbers of mushrooms I did in the past. The market price won't stay at the current level."
It's not just mushrooms that are off the table. North Korea's other exports to Japan are also quite sought after. Snow crabs and sea urchins that make up a import trade worth around $US 150 million.
But Japan's Government says that's money it can no longer tolerate being sent to North Korea. And from tomorrow, imports will be banned, and North Korean ships will be refused entry to Japan's ports.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan is being directly threatened.
(Sound of Shinzo Abe speaking)
"The fact that North Korea has enhanced its missile capabilities and has carried out a nuclear test, means the threat to Japan has doubled," he says. "In the circumstances, the Government has decided on the measures even though they might be tough."
The Government is also setting up a task force to look at ways of compensating the businesses that will be affected.
"I ask people for their co-operation and understanding," Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, says.
"I will ask this especially from the people who are affected. The Government will do its best to consider these people."
North Korea has hit back at the Japanese move, warning of unspecified "strong countermeasures" in response. A senior diplomat in Pyongyang told the Japanese Kyodo News agency that North Korea never speaks empty words.