Japan formally OKs additional Russia sanctions

TOKYO — Japan has formally approved additional sanctions against Russia over the unrest in Ukraine.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday the sanctions include the freezing of assets held in Japan by 40 individuals and two groups supporting the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, and a ban on Crimean imports. He said the steps are in line with measures taken by European Union and Group of Seven nations.

He said financial institutions operating in Japan will follow the decision under the foreign exchange law.

Despite the sanctions, Japan is still open to dialogue with Russia, and hopes to assist in a peaceful settlement of the problem by cooperating with the international community, Suga said.

Japan introduced the plans after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The U.S. and Ukraine accuse pro-Russia rebels of firing a missile that brought the plane down, killing all 298 people on board.

Washington and EU have debated imposing tougher sanctions against Moscow over its support for the rebels.

Japan had previously only suspended bilateral talks with Russia on some issues, and imposed an entry visa ban on 23 individuals whom it hasn’t publicly named.

Relations between Japan and Russia have suffered for decades due to a territorial dispute that has prevented the signing of a peace treaty after World War II. Tokyo has been seen as reluctant to ramp up sanctions due to concerns that they could threaten to derail Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s moves toward rapprochement with Moscow.

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