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Japan to ease North Korea sanctions to solve abduction issue

Published on Jul 3, 2014 9:58 AM
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga receives a paper from an official at a press conference at the prime minister's official residernce in Tokyo on May 29, 2014. Japan has decided to lift part of its sanctions against North Korea, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as Pyongyang showed signs of reinvestigating in earnest the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the reclusive state decades ago. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan decided on Thursday to ease some sanctions on North Korea in return for its reopening of a probe into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by the reclusive state decades ago, as a fresh report emerged that some of them were alive.

“This is just a start,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has made the fate of the abductees a focus of his political career, told reporters. “We will make every effort to achieve a complete resolution of this issue.”  

Japan will lift travel curbs to and from North Korea, restrictions on the amount of money that can be sent or brought to the impoverished North without notifying Japanese authorities, and allow port calls by North Korean ships for humanitarian purposes.  

Easing the sanctions will likely have only a minimal economic impact, but it could be a first step towards repairing long-chilled ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

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