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Japan eases sanctions on N Korea after talks

Move comes after discussions over fate of Japanese citizens thought to have been abducted by Pyongyang during Cold War.

Last updated: 03 Jul 2014 06:07
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The sanctions lifted are separate to international restrictions for Pyongyang's nuclear programme [EPA]

Japan has said it will revoke some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea, after talks on the Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.

Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that Pyongyang had shown sufficient will in resolving the decades-old row and that it needed to reciprocate .

The move comes after the two sides met in Beijing to discuss what happened to possibly hundreds of people Japan says were snatched by North Korean spies to train their agents in language and customs during the 1970s and 1980s.

The sanctions in question are separate from international restrictions imposed after UN Security Council resolutions in the wake of nuclear and missile tests carried out by Pyongyang.

"Our stance of comprehensively resolving the issues of abduction, nuclear and missiles has not changed at all," said Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga.

Tokyo plans to lift a ban on North Koreans entering Japan and end the prohibition on some North Korean ships entering Japanese ports, government officials said.

Abe's cabinet will formally lift the sanctions on Friday when North Korea is scheduled to set up the investigation committee, the AFP news agency reported.

Warming relations

Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic ties. The warming of their relations comes as Pyongyang appears to have fallen out of favour with Beijing, its longterm patron and protector.

Abe's announcement coincided with a visit to South Korea by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, which is largely seen as snub to the North, Beijing's traditional ally.

The Nikkei Business Daily said North Korea had handed Japan a list of at least 10 Japanese nationals who are said to be living in the country, including some who were kidnapped.

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens to train its spies in Japanese language and customs.

Five of the abductees returned home but Pyongyang said that the eight others had died.

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