Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo Tuesday, July 1, 2014.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday, local time, that his government has decided to lift some of its sanction on North Korea.
The move is in return for North Korea's agreement to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a brief statement to reporters, Abe didn't provide any details on which sanctions would be lifted. A formal decision could come at a cabinet meeting on Friday.
Japan bans port calls by any North Korean-flag vessels, all trade with North Korea and the entry into Japan of North Korean citizens. Tokyo has said that if its concerns are satisfied, it would allow more people exchanges, ease requirements to report money transfers to the North and raise limits on how much cash can be carried to the North. It would also allow North Korean ships to make port calls for humanitarian purposes.
Even a partial thaw could provide Pyongyang with a small but potentially meaningful boost to its recent efforts at promoting international tourism, and perhaps farther down the road, increased trade.
The North also is under sanctions based on United Nations resolutions since 2006, including an arms-trade ban, a freeze of North Korean assets, a ban on people exchanges, and restrictions on education and training.
"Expressing the gravest concern over the claim by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that it had conducted a nuclear weapon test, the Security Council this afternoon condemned that test and imposed sanctions on the DPRK, calling for it to return immediately to multilateral talks on the issue," the U.N. said at the time. "The Council adopted resolution 1718 (2006), which prevents a range of goods from entering or leaving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and imposes an asset freeze and travel ban on persons related to the nuclear-weapon programme."
North Korea acknowledged in 2002 that its agents had abducted Japanese to train its spies, and eventually returned five of them. It said others Japan claimed were abducted had died, or never entered the North.
Tokyo disputes that, and is demanding an investigation into at least 12 abduction cases. Private organizations say many more citizens were abducted.
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