TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday 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.
Abe, in a brief statement to reporters, didn't provide any details on which sanctions would be lifted. A formal decision could come at a Cabinet meeting 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 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 U.N. 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.
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 wants an investigation into at least 12 abduction cases. Private organizations say many more citizens were abducted.