TOKYO North Korea has declared void an agreement to reopen a probe into the fate of abducted Japanese citizens after Japan imposed sanctions in the wake of Pyongyang's rocket launch, according to North Korea's official KCNA news agency.
North Korea planned to disband a committee set up in 2014 to look into the whereabouts of Japanese abductees, KCNA said, adding that Japan's "provocative acts of hostility" toward North Korea would ensure further countermeasures.
"The Abe regime has to hold full responsibility for causing such a grave consequence," it said.
Japan said on Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on North Korea after a satellite launch seen by Washington and allies, including Tokyo, as cover for development of ballistic missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens decades ago. Five abductees and their families later returned to Japan but Tokyo wants to know the fate of the remaining eight, who Pyongyang has said are dead, and others that Japan believes were also kidnapped.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has made resolving the emotive abductees issues a signature pledge of his political career, had stressed it hoped to keep the door to dialogue open.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday it was deplorable for North Korea to unilaterally disband the committee, Kyodo news agency reported. He also said Japan was not going to scrap the agreement made by the two countries.
Japan eased some sanctions on North Korea in July 2014 in return for the North reopening its probe into the status of the abduction issues, but little progress has been made.
(Reporting by Junko Fujita and Linda Sieg; Editing by Richard Pullin)