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Japan joins US in imposing new sanctions on North Korea

Foreign minister says assets of five groups, including two from China, to be frozen, as well as nine individuals.

Japan will impose additional sanctions on North Korea for its weapons programmes, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, just hours after the US Senate also voted for new sanctions on the secretive state.

US media reported this week that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon spy agency, had assessed that North Korea would be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by next year, earlier than previously thought.

Kishida told reporters that given the increasing threat posed by North Korea's missiles and the fact that no concrete proposals have been made to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted decades ago by agents from the North, the steps had to be taken.

"Given that we can't expect meaningful dialogue, pressure on them is essential," he said.

Japan will be taking steps to freeze the assets of five groups, including two from China, as well as nine individuals, Kishida said, but did not give further details.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the groups had "engaged in activities prohibited by a UN Security council resolution."

Kishida said Japan had been in contact with key allies such as the United States and South Korea, but gave no further details.

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to slap new sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, including seeking to punish foreign banks that do business with North Korea.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and a series of missile launches.

The United States is seeking further sanctions after North Korea tested a missile this month that was believed to be an ICBM.


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