Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 16:00 UK

Japan to lift N Korea sanctions

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura (file image)
Masahiko Komura said some travel restrictions would be lifted

Japan is to partially lift sanctions against North Korea after it agreed to conduct a new probe into the issue of abducted Japanese nationals.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said a ban on charter flights and travel between the two sides would be lifted.

In return, Pyongyang would re-examine cases of a number of Japanese people seized by North Korean agents decades ago to train spies, he said.

The move follows talks between the two sides earlier this month.

Representatives met in the Chinese capital, Beijing, in a bid to make progress on the long-standing dispute - which is blocking moves towards establishing formal diplomatic ties.

'Active talks'

North Korea admitted in 2002 that it had abducted 13 Japanese nationals in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Snatched in the '70s and '80s
Used as cultural trainers for N Korean spies
Five allowed home in 2002
Five children now freed from N Korea
Eight said to be dead, others may be missing

It has returned five of them and says the remaining eight are dead. In the past it has insisted that the issue has been resolved.

But Japan wants concrete proof of the deaths and believes that several more of its citizens were taken.

Japan's top government spokesman, Nobutaka Machimura, voiced optimism over Pyongyang's agreement to re-examine the issue.

"With these promises... the process of resolving the abduction issue has resumed," he said.

"The government would like to have active talks with North Korea in order to achieve a comprehensive solution to the issues of the abductions and its nuclear and missile programmes."

Mr Machimura said he believed the North had agreed to the deal because it feared lack of progress might hinder advances in the broader six-party talks on its nuclear programme.

In exchange, Japan will loosen restrictions on the movement of people between the two countries, lift a ban on charter flights and allowing certain ships access to Japanese ports.

Japan imposed sanctions on North Korea after it conducted a nuclear test in October 2006 and has renewed them every six months since then.

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