TOKYO: Japan will revoke some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea, the prime minister announced Thursday, after talks on the Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.
Shinzo Abe said Tokyo judged Pyongyang, which pledged to re-investigate the disappearance of missing Japanese citizens, had shown sufficient willing in resolving the decades-old row and that this needed to be reciprocated.
“We have concluded that an unprecedented scheme that can make national decisions has been established. In accordance with the principle of action to action, we will lift part of the measures taken by Japan,” Abe told reporters.
The move comes after the two sides met in Beijing to discuss what happened to the dozens — or even 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 additional to international strictures imposed after UN Security Council resolutions in the wake of nuclear and missile tests carried out by the North.
News reports earlier Thursday said Tokyo will lift a ban on North Koreans entering Japan, waive the reporting requirement for remitting more than 100,000 yen ($1,000) in cash and end the prohibition on some North Korean ships entering Japanese ports.
Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic ties and relations between the two have been testy for decades.
But a late warming — despite several recent missile tests by the North — comes as Pyongyang appears to have fallen out of favour with Beijing, its longterm patron and protector.
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 those believed to have been kidnapped by Pyongyang agents.
The list, which is in Korean, includes names and personal histories, according to Japanese government officials involved in the talks, the paper said.
At a meeting Tuesday, the North Korean delegation also presented details of a planned investigative panel, which Tokyo considers is well authorised to launch the probe, it said.
“The special investigative committee will be quite large” and chaired by a close aide to the North’s leader Kim Jong-Un, said a Japanese government official involved in the negotiations.
Pyongyang is expected to use the list to confirm their whereabouts, while Tokyo will analyse it to see if any names match those of reported abductees, it said.
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 — without producing credible evidence — that the eight others had died, provoking an uproar in Japan.
The subject is highly charged in Japan, where there are suspicions that perhaps even hundreds of others of others were taken.