North Korea has agreed to reopen an investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang decades ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, a potential breakthrough in a long-running dispute between Tokyo and Pyongyang.
Japan has agreed to ease some sanctions against North Korea once the probe had been reopened, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said separately.
"Our job will not end until every parent can embrace their children with their own arms," Abe told reporters. "This is a first step toward an overall resolution."
North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s to help train spies. Five abductees and their families returned to Japan.
North Korea has said the remaining eight were dead, but Japan has pressed for more information about their fate and others that Tokyo believes were also kidnapped.
The prime minister has long made efforts to resolve the abductees issue a key part of his political agenda.
Japanese and North Korean officials met in Stockholm this week for talks on the topic of the abductees - an emotive issue for many Japanese - as well as Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.
The agreement on the abductees probe comes at a time of concerns that Pyongyang may be preparing for a fourth nuclear test in contravention of U.N. sanctions.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg, Elaine Lies and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Ron Popeski)