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Abe to decide on lifting sanctions depending on N. Korea's "sincerity"


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he will see if North Korea is ready to tackle the issue of its abductions of Japanese nationals with sincerity before his government decides whether to lift some of its sanctions on Pyongyang.

Abe told reporters in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, that he will make a decision on the sanctions after going back to Tokyo later Wednesday and hearing from a Foreign Ministry official who attended the previous day's Japan-North Korea talks in Beijing.

North Korea informed Japan in the Chinese capital of the organizational structure of an abduction probe unit it is to launch.

"I will see if North Korea is sincere," Abe said during a one-day trip to Iwate to see how recovery work has progressed in the prefecture that was hit by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, has returned to Japan and is scheduled to brief Abe on Wednesday night on the outcome of his talks with North Korea.

The focus is whether North Korea has given its "special investigation committee" power to examine any organization in the country, as promised during three days of negotiations through May 28 in Stockholm.

To assess this point, Japan is paying great attention to who will head the new panel and if it includes anyone from North Korea's secret police or someone close to the country's leader Kim Jong Un.

If Japan finds no problem with North Korea's approach to reinvestigating the abductions, a decision to ease unilateral sanctions is expected to be finalized at a Cabinet meeting Friday.

The Beijing meeting was held to follow up the surprise agreement between Japan and North Korea in the Swedish capital that Pyongyang will launch a full-scale investigation into all issues related to the Japanese abductees in exchange for an easing of sanctions.