Japan said on Thursday it would ease sanctions imposed on North Korea after the reclusive state agreed to set up a team to investigate the abduction of Japanese nationals decades ago.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo was responding positively after Pyongyang agreed to set up an "unprecedented framework" to lead the new investigation into the abductions, a highly emotional issue in Japan.

"Based on the principle of reciprocity, Japan will lift some of the measures we have been taking ... But this is just a start. I am determined to do all I can to reach a complete resolution," Abe said after a cabinet meeting.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo has not received any list of abductees, Bloomberg reported. Suga also reiterated Abe was not planning to visit North Korea.

However, the Nikkei reported that at least 10 survivors are still in North Korea, according to a list Pyongyang authorities handed over to their Japanese counterparts at a Beijing meeting.

The details of the move have not been disclosed. Japan has imposed its own set of sanctions on the isolated country, apart from the curbs imposed by the UN and the United States.

Japanese sanctions include travel bans and the denial of entry for North Korean ships in Japanese ports.

According to the Nikkei, Tokyo could ease travel bans and some restrictions in remittances, and allow North Korean ships to dock at Japanese ports for humanitarian reasons.

However, Japan will continue to ban charter flights from North Korea and trade materials related to nuclear and missile technology, the paper reported.

Kidnapped for training spies

North Korea had earlier admitted that it kidnapped Japanese nationals during the 1970s and 1980s to help train its spies in language and local culture.

Pyongyang has said it abducted 13 Japanese nationals, of whom five were returned in 2002. It has maintained that the others have died. However, Japan believes more of its citizens were abducted by the secretive communist state and wants more investigations.

According to Kyodo news agency, Pyongyang will re-examine the abduction cases and constitute an investigation team comprising a member of its high-profile National Defence Commission.

Abe said Japan's gesture followed assurances from Pyongyang that "bodies capable of taking national decisions" will lead the new investigation.

"In accordance with the principle of action to action, we will lift part of the measures taken by Japan."