TOKYO, March 28 (KUNA) -- Japan could ease its sanctions against North Korea if Pyongyang shows a positive approach toward resolving the abduction issue, a state minister said Friday, ahead of planned high-level talks between the two countries next week. "If North Korea takes sincere and positive approach toward resolving the abduction issue, naturally there is a possibility that Japan will gradually lift its unilateral sanctions" minister in charge of the abduction issue Keiji Furuya, told a press conference.
His remarks come as Japan and North Korea will resume formal inter-governmental talks on Sunday for the first time since November 2012. The fact that North Korea is willing to hold talks is a positive sign said Furuya, expressing hope that there will be progress on the abduction issue. The minister stressed that Japan would lift the sanctions depending on the negotiations' results saying that "we will act if North Korea acts, and this is our basic principle".
The two countries are deadlocked over the number of Japanese nationals that North Korean agents abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, and also the fates of some of them. In 2002, the North admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese and returned five victims and their families, claiming that the other eight victims were dead. Japan has demanded proof of their deaths and believes 17 people were kidnapped. The North agreed in 2008 to reinvestigate the abduction cases, but has failed to fulfill its promise.
Japan unilaterally imposed the sanctions in October 2006 following North Korea's first nuclear test and test-launch of ballistic missiles over the Sea of Japan the same year. The measures include all imports from North Korea and port calls by North Korean ships, as well as the export of luxury goods to the communist country. North Korean officials are also prohibited from entry into Japan.
The two countries agreed in their talks in Mongolia in November 2012 to meet again in the following month, but the talks were suspended after North Korea test-launched a long-range missile in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.(end) mk.ag KUNA 281255 Mar 14NNNN