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Japan backs latest U.S. sanctions against N. Korea weapons program

TOKYO — Japan “strongly” supports the U.S. decision to cut off a Chinese bank from the U.S. financial system for laundering money for North Korea, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday, calling it a “decisive” action.


“Cooperating with the United States and other nations, we will continue to make efforts to solve issues over North Korea,” which has developed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Kishida told reporters.


On Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Bank of Dandong, based in northeastern China on the border with North Korea, has served as a gateway for Pyongyang to access the U.S. and international financial systems.


The bank has facilitated “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Mnuchin said at a press conference.


It marks the first time that the United States has slapped sanctions on a Chinese lender to curb the weapons ambitions of the reclusive country led by Kim Jong Un.


Japan will consider whether to impose additional sanctions on North Korea, while taking into account “what the most effective” measures against Pyongyang are, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a news conference.


Earlier this week, Japan’s Cabinet approved tightening inspections of third-country cargo ships entering North Korea, aiming to prevent potential diversion of items for use in its weapons program.


On the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae In later in the day in Washington, Japanese officials expressed hope that the two leaders will agree to work together to tackle North Korea.


“We recognize that it is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to cooperate in a wide range of fields,” Kishida said, adding, “We hope (Trump and Moon) will confirm the importance of such cooperation.”

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