Japan PM threatens Moscow with more sanctions over Crimea

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday condemned Russia for violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and threatened to impose further sanctions against Moscow over its role in the Crimean crisis.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty claiming the Black Sea region as Russian territory after more than 97 percent of Crimeans voted in favour of Kremlin rule in a disputed referendum.

The West, which has imposed sanctions of its own, condemned Moscow's actions as a blatant annexation of Crimea.

"(Russian action) violates Ukraine's unity, sovereignty and the integrity of its territory, and we condemn it," Abe told a parliamentary committee.

"Our country cannot overlook an attempt to change the status quo by force," he added.

Japan's foreign ministry on Tuesday announced it was suspending negotiations with Russia on easing visa requirements and would not be starting talks on a new investment accord.

"We will consider further measures, while cooperating with G7 nations and other countries," Abe said Wednesday, without elaborating.

The mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper said that additional action would include restricting visas and freezing assets.

Abe also said Wednesday that, if his schedule permitted, he would attend a G7 summit in the Hague next week called by US President Barack Obama to discuss the escalating showdown with Russia.

Japanese trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who was scheduled to attend a Russian investment forum in Tokyo on Wednesday, was "unable to attend" because he had to be in parliament, a ministry official told AFP on Tuesday.