Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Pic: AP.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says North Korea has agreed to open a new investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Abe announced the agreement in a brief statement to reporters Thursday evening. He said it was just a first step toward resolving the kidnapping issue that has long kept the nations at odds.

It came after three days of talks between North Korean and Japanese officials in Stockholm earlier this week.

North Korea allowed five kidnapped Japanese to return home in 2002, but Japan believes at least a dozen others were kidnapped too and wants them returned, if they are still alive.