By Kurt Achin
13 June 2008
Japan says it is lifting some of the sanctions it imposed on North Korea following Pyongyang's nuclear test about two years ago. The announcement comes amid apparent progress in talks on the North's abduction of Japanese citizens, and as talks to end the North's nuclear weapons programs get set to resume. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Officials in Tokyo say they will loosen some restrictions on charter flights and other travel between Japan and North Korea. Japan imposed the limitations soon after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test explosion in October 2006.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura says North Korea is being more cooperative on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted during the 1970s and 80s.
He says, North Korea has promised to re-investigate the abduction cases, in order to take concrete action on the issue. He describes that as a shift in North Korea's stance, and a sign of "certain progress."
North Korea has admitted the North's agents kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens. Pyongyang returned five of them, and said the others were dead. Tokyo accuses the North of other abductions, mainly for the purpose of training spies in Japanese language and customs.
The abduction issue has been a sticking point in multinational talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. Japan has refused to join its partners in providing energy or financial aid to the North until the issue is resolved. Here in Seoul, a South Korean delegate to the talks suggested this week the process might be slowed significantly if energy aid was not sufficiently guaranteed.
The nuclear talks are expected to resume within weeks in Beijing. Negotiators say they hope the process will eventually lead to full diplomatic normalization between North Korea and Japan - which could translate into billions of dollars worth of aid from Tokyo to the impoverished North.