The government announced on Tuesday that it will resume charter flights to North Korea, easing sanctions it imposed in September 1998 after a North Korean missile flew over Japan.
The decision was reached because of recent developments in high-level talks between the United States and North Korea, at which Pyongyang agreed to suspend missile tests, Soichiro Matsutani, deputy chief Cabinet secretary, told a news conference.
Tokyo imposed sanctions after Pyongyang launched a three-stage rocket, part of which crossed Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean, on Aug. 31, 1998. Japan believes it was a test launch of a Taepodong-1 ballistic missile.
The sanctions include a freeze on food aid and suspension of talks on the normalization of bilateral ties, in addition to the suspension of charter flights.
After the talks with the U.S. in September, North Korea declared that it would suspend missile tests as long as the dialogue with Washington continued.
“The Japanese government has made this decision to help enhance recent positive developments observed in relations between the United States and North Korea,” Matsutani said.
“We have also decided to lift (a section of) the sanctions in the hope that positive developments (in talks between the U.S. and North Korea) will help Japan-North Korea relations,” he said.
Commenting on the remaining sanctions, Matsutani said the government will carefully consider lifting them after observing future developments in the talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
The next round of dialogue is scheduled for Nov. 15 in Berlin. The U.S. has responded to North Korea’s promise in September to halt missile tests with a partial lifting of its own economic sanctions.
In a recent move, Japan resumed informal contact with North Korea when Foreign Ministry officials from both nations met in Singapore from Oct. 18-20.
In addition, an interparty mission to be led by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama is planning to visit North Korea to help improve relations between the two nations.
Matsutani said the resumption of charter flights will help realize Murayama’s visit to Pyongyang.
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