On 29 May 2014, the Japanese government announced that it would lift certain aspects of its sanctions regime against North Korea following an agreement between the two nations that North Korea would reopen its investigation into the kidnapping and abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. North Korea has admitted that the kidnappings were part of a wider programme during the Cold War to train North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated that Japan would ease travel and money transfer restrictions between the two countries, and would also lift the ban on the entry of North Korean ships into Japanese ports, conditional upon the results of the investigation. North Korea’s chief negotiator, Song Il Ho, reportedly accepted the terms, which would come into effect in 2015.

Trade between Japan and North Korea has been suspended since Japan blocked imports from, and exports to, North Korea in 2006 and 2009 respectively, in response to the state’s nuclear proliferation programme.

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