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Japan finalizes decision to ease sanctions on N. Korea

Kyodo

Japan on Friday finalized its decision to lift some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea after assessing Pyongyang’s preparation to tackle the abduction issue as sincere.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet formally approved the decision made a day earlier by him and his ministers charged with handling North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

After talks Tuesday with North Korea in Beijing, the Abe administration determined that Pyongyang is serious about looking into the fate of the abductees as its new investigation unit supposedly possesses wide-ranging authority.

The sanctions will be eased even though North Korea recently defied the international community by launching short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.

Japan will lift restrictions on travel between the two countries and restrictions on remittances to and cash carried into North Korea, as well as a ban on the entry of North Korean-registered ships, excluding the Mangyongbong-92 passenger-cargo ferry, into Japanese ports for humanitarian purposes.

Japan imposed the unilateral sanctions in the wake of North Korea’s missile launch and first nuclear test in 2006.

During talks in May in Stockholm, North Korea promised to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale survey for the final settlement of all issues related to Japanese, in return for an easing of the sanctions.

Japan officially lists 17 nationals as abductees but suspects North Korea’s involvement in many more disappearances. Abe has repeatedly said he is determined to resolve the abduction issue while in office.

The abductions, an extremely emotional issue in Japan, have prevented the two countries from normalizing diplomatic relations.