Following a Cabinet meeting Friday, Japan formalized its decision to relax sanctions against North Korea.
These include lifting travel bans to and from Pyongyang, raising the reporting limit for money taken or sent to North Korea and allowing port calls by North Korean ships to Japan for humanitarian purposes.
In response, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency announced the launch of what it called "an all-inclusive and comprehensive investigation" to determine the fate of several Japanese citizens abducted to the North decades ago.
The 30-member special investigative team, headed by the country's vice minister for State Security and led by the powerful National Defense Commission, will be granted a special right to probe any organization in the regime.
In 2002, North Korea admitted to abducting 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s to help train their spies, but Japan believes even more people were kidnapped.
South Korea and the United States, Japan's key allies in countering North Korea's nuclear ambitions, have been calling for transparency in the separate dealings to prevent any friction in their trilateral cooperation.
But whether Tokyo and Pyongyang's recent overtures will lead to a concrete shift in regional dynamics is keeping the world on edge.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.