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North Korea sanctions

Japan to assess defence capabilities as it expands harsh sanctions on North Korea, freezing assets on 19 more firms

The actions follow the most recent of Pyongyang’s test missile launches on November 29

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 10:48pm

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will analyse the defence capability it needs to protect its citizens in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

“We would like to decide what defence capability we should truly have in order to protect our people, rather than simply expanding the traditional one,” Abe said in Tokyo.

The prime minister said the government will start accelerating debates early next year on a review to Japan’s defence programme guidelines, which were approved in 2013. He added that Japan is ready to put more pressure on North Korea to stop its provocations.

His speech came as the Japanese government decided on Friday to freeze the assets of 19 more North Korean companies as part of its unilateral sanctions in response to the North’s repeated defiance of a UN ban on nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

The 19 firms deal in financial services, trade in coal and oil, shipping and the dispatch of workers overseas, according to the Foreign Ministry.

After a roughly two-month hiatus in launches, North Korea fired a missile on November 29 that it said was a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting any target on the US mainland.

The Japanese government’s top spokesman said the expanded sanctions, effective Friday, are in response to that launch, North Korea’s continued “provocative words and actions,” and a “lack of concrete progress” on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said the move is timed to coincide with a UN Security Council ministerial meeting on North Korea’s nuclear programme, to be chaired by Foreign Minister Taro Kono in New York later in the day.

According to a Foreign Ministry official, all the companies are already subject to US sanctions, starting from January last year.

Among them is Korean Computer Centre, which the ministry said is involved in dispatching workers and has a presence in Germany, China, Syria, India and the United Arab Emirates.

The official was unable to confirm which countries are destinations for workers from the four companies involved in dispatching.

He also said the expanded sanctions are not directly linked to the US decision last month to return North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The new additions bring the total subject to Japan’s unilateral sanctions to 56 companies or groups and 62 individuals, some of which are also covered by UN Security Council resolutions, the official said.