''There is basically no progress in the abduction issue,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura earlier told reporters, as quoted by Kyodo News agency. ''We are not in a situation in which we can stop or ease the sanctions.''
Tokyo demands the return of its citizens abducted in the 1970s-80s. Pyongyang has acknowledged that it kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens, and that it subsequently sent five of them home, but insists that the rest are dead.
Pyongyang later said it would consider re-investigating the issue if Japan agreed to compensate North Korea for its colonial aggression between 1910-1945, end pressure on pro-North Korean residents in Japan, and lift sanctions.
The sanctions, originally imposed in October 2006 in response to North Korea's first nuclear test, have already been extended once, in April 2007. They include a ban on port calls by North Korean ships and on all North Korean imports. North Korean nationals are also barred from entering Japan, and Tokyo has halted the export of 24 items, including luxury goods, to the reclusive Communist state.
The extension of the current sanctions had been discussed earlier by Tokyo, and the decision came as little surprise. Machimura also noted that Japan had taken recent six-nation talks over North Korea's denuclearization into account when coming to a final decision.
Pyongyang pledged on October 3 to decommission a 5 MW nuclear reactor, a radiochemical lab and a fuel processing plant. All three facilities are currently closed down and sealed off.