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Gov't to liftall N. Korea sanctions

Mainichi Shimbun, Wednesday 15 December 1999

All remaining sanctions on North Korea will be lifted, the government announced Tuesday.

Tokyo imposed the punishments in protest at Pyongyang's launching of a missile that flew over the Japanese archipelago in August 1998.

The decision to lift the freeze on food aid to North Korea and normalization talks laid the foundation for preliminary discussions between Tokyo and Pyongyang aimed at establishing bilateral diplomatic relations, government officials said.

We will make a comprehensive decision on the timing of resuming full-fledged talks on normalization of diplomatic relations and implementing food aid after watching developments in preliminary talks and the response from North Korea, Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in announcing the decision.

The government had already lifted a ban on financial support for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization that is building a light-water nuclear reactor for North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang abandoning its suspected nuclear weapons program. It had also already lifted a ban on chartered flights to Pyongyang.

According to a Foreign Ministry position paper, the government will strive to launch the preliminary talks with North Korea as soon as possible.

Food shipments would, however, be delayed until domestic opposition to the move was overcome.

The government also hopes that the Red Cross societies of Japan and North Korea will hold talks to discuss humanitarian issues. The issues include food assistance, visits to Japan by Japanese spouses of North Koreans and the whereabouts of some 10 Japanese nationals allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s.