Japan is giving its clearest signal yet that it might impose economic sanctions against North Korea. The threat comes amid increasingly contentious rhetoric over the failure to resolve the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens during the Cold War.

Japanese government officials on Thursday indicated they are considering taking measures against North Korea for the lack of progress on accounting for Japanese citizens kidnapped by agents of the North several decades ago.

This comes in response to North Korea accusing Japan of "thoroughly fabricating" the results of DNA tests on remains handed over two months ago. The communist state claims the remains are from one of the Japanese abductees who died on North Korea. But Japan says its tests do not concur.

Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aizawa says Japan might have to impose economic sanctions. Mr. Aizawa says North Korea's responses have been insincere, thus Japan has no choice but to consider more specific and tougher measures against Pyongyang.

Japanese media report that several top officials in the Koizumi government remain reluctant to impose sanctions, which North Korea has previously stated would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

There also appears to be concern among some government officials here that imposing sanctions would give North Korea another excuse to further delay or pull out of stalled multi-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea, in 2003, admitted it abducted 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to help train its spies. Five of those who were abducted have since returned to Japan. Japan says two others were also kidnapped and wants Pyongyang to clarify the fate of all 10 missing people. Pyongyang disputes there were more than eight and says those eight died.