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Japan lifts some N.Korea sanctions amid report of surviving abductees

Published on Jul 4, 2014 3:39 AM
 
A man walks past a campaign poster on Japan's abduction issue (left) on a street in Tokyo on July 3, 2014. 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. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

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.

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

The sanctions to be lifted are separate from those imposed by Japan and other U.N. members after Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006 that prohibit U.N. member states from arms trade with Pyongyang and from financial transactions that facilitate such trade. "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."

Easing the sanctions will likely have only a minimal economic impact, but it could be a first step toward repairing long-chilled ties between Tokyo and Pyongyang. The decision comes at a time of persistent international concern about the volatile North's nuclear and missile programmes. Mr Abe said the government had determined that North Korea took an unprecedented step in establishing a new entity to investigate all Japanese nationals involved.

 
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