Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday that his country will ease some of the unilateral sanctions imposed on North Korea.
The prime minister, who gave no details on the sanctions to be lifted, made the announcement after the regime of Kim Jong-un accepted to investigate the kidnappings of Japanese citizens in North Korea decades ago.
"We will lift some of the measures" when North Korea starts investigating the abductions, Abe said.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the North Korean 30-member investigative committee will begin its sessions Friday, when the Japanese Cabinet will discuss the sanctions issue.
Abe explained his government considered that the North Korean committee was "sufficiently qualified" to solve the abductions cases, according to statements released by Kyodo agency.
The panel includes members of the powerful National Defence Commission and the National Security Agency, who are entitled to take very high-level decisions, he added.
Abe also pointed out that the easing of sanctions "is only the beginning" and he is "prepared to make more efforts in order to completely settle" the case.
The move coincides with news that Pyongyang has given Japan a list with 10 names of Japanese nationals living in North Korea, including a few who were kidnapped, Japanese government sources told the Nikkei daily.
The newspaper reported that the list includes personal histories that Japan will match with those missing.
Tokyo alleges that, between 1977 and 1983, at least 17 Japanese were kidnapped by North Korea and forced to give cultural and language lessons in spy-training programmes.
Only five have returned to their country and Pyongyang claims the rest died or never entered North Korea.
The issue has been a longstanding dispute between North Korea and Japan, which does not have diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and has clamped its own sanctions on the Communist country aside from those imposed by the UN in retaliation for nuclear and missile tests.
Last May, both countries agreed in a meeting in Stockholm to try to end the dispute and Tokyo pledged to ease the unilateral sanctions, which include a travel ban, the freezing of assets and restrictions on shipments, if the results of the investigation prove to be satisfactory.