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N.Korean envoy: Probe panel has powerful authority

A North Korean diplomat says his country has given the highest level of authority to a panel investigating the fate of abductees and other missing Japanese nationals.

Son Il Ho is the North's envoy for normalizing relations with Japan. He led the North Korean delegation in talks with Japanese officials.

Son held a news conference in Pyongyang on Friday, following the launch of the special investigative committee.

Son said core members of the panel are from the country's Ministry of State Security, or secret police, which is authorized to investigate all relevant North Korean bodies.

He added his country set up the panel with the strongest-ever authority to investigate and solve the issue of all missing Japanese.

Son noted personnel in charge of the panel's local divisions are also from the Ministry and that operations started on Friday.

Also on Friday, the Japanese government decided to lift some of the sanctions on North Korea, while maintaining a ban on port calls by a North Korean cargo-passenger ship, the Mangyongbong.

The North Korean envoy expressed hope that Japan will lift the ban as well, depending on how the North Korean investigations go.

He said the 2 countries used to have civil trade. He added that it's up to Japan whether to lift the ban.

Jul. 4, 2014 - Updated 12:52 UTC