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Japan joins U.S. in imposing new sanctions on North Korea

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will freeze the assets of five organisations and nine individuals linked to North Korea, including two Chinese entities, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, outlining new sanctions against the isolated state.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attends a news conference after the launch of a North Korean missile at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Japan’s announcement came just hours after the U.S. Senate also voted for new sanctions on North Korea, which followed U.S. media reports this week that intelligence officials had assessed that Pyongyang would be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by next year, earlier than previously thought.

The U.S. sanctions also include measures aimed at Chinese financial institutions, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

China’s foreign ministry denounced Japan’s decision as unacceptable and “wrong.”

“We are resolutely opposed to any country implementing any unilateral sanctions outside the UN Security Council framework, especially those targeting Chinese enterprises and individuals,” ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing.

“If Japan insists on doing this it will create major political obstacles for cooperation between China and Japan on the Korean Peninsula issue,” he added.

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, increasing 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.

He added that no further details would be made available until various “administrative procedures” had been carried out, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the groups had “engaged in activities prohibited by a U.N. 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.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs 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. U.S. officials said on Tuesday they had seen increased activity at a site in the western city of Kusong that could be preparations for another missile test within days.

Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO and Philip Wen in BEIJING, writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan