TOKYO: Japan said on Wednesday (Feb 10) it was imposing sanctions on North Korea after a satellite launch seen by Washington and its allies including Tokyo as cover for development of ballistic missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Japan's announcement comes after the UN Security Council strongly condemned Sunday's rocket launch and agreed to move quickly to impose new sanctions of its own.
"We have decided to take firm sanction steps," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters of the latest move, which adds to measures Japan already has in place over past North Korean nuclear and missile tests.
The announcement came as South Korea also decided to suspend all operations at a jointly run Kaesong industrial park in North Korea to punish Pyongyang.
It was the first time Seoul had suspended operations at the estate since it opened in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border reconciliation.
The South Korean and Japanese moves came a day after Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke on the phone.
The two leaders also held separate telephone talks with US President Barack Obama to discuss strong action against North Korea in response to recent nuclear and missile tests, including a UN Security Council resolution that would bring new sanctions.
The latest Japanese measures include prohibiting North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports and a total entry ban on North Korean nationals into Japan, a government statement said.
"All North Korean ships, including those for humanitarian purposes, shall be banned from coming to Japanese ports," the statement said. "Third-country ships that visited North Korea shall be also banned from entering," it added.
The measures also toughen financial reporting requirements for people transporting cash to North Korea, the statement added.
The measures bring back and add to some sanctions that Japan eased in 2014, such as the travel ban, after Pyongyang agreed to re-investigate issues related to Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents decades ago.
"We strongly urge North Korea to take positive steps toward a comprehensive resolution of various concerns, such as abductions, nuclear and missiles, under a policy of dialogue-and-pressure and action-for-action," the Japanese government statement said.
In 2002, North Korea admitted that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens during the Cold War era to train its spies and allowed five of them to return to Japan, while saying eight had died.
But Japan believes dozens of other people were also snatched mostly in the 1970s and 1980s to train the North's agents in Japanese language and customs.
Japan has had various sanctions against North Korea in line with UN resolutions, such as freezing of assets by groups and individuals linked with the secretive regime.