Japanese sanctions on North Korea would have a severe impact on the reclusive communist regime, and could ultimately topple dictator Kim Jong Il if China joined in pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program, a key ruling party official said yesterday.
Shinzo Abe said Kim could avoid being deposed by following the example of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who a year ago said his country would dismantle its programs for weapons of mass destruction and allow UN, US and British inspectors to visit the facilities.
"If he doesn't make that choice, then there could be regime change. He must realize this," Abe said on a TV Asahi debate program.
Abe, the acting secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), did not elaborate on how Kim might be removed from power.
He argued, however, that economic sanctions favored by most Japanese would deal a serious blow to the impoverished communist state.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to ban North Korean ships from Japanese ports, prohibit cash remittances to the communist state, or impose other sanctions in an attempt to force Pyongyang to release information on Japanese kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.
On Friday, an LDP group and a lower-house committee passed separate resolutions calling for a freeze in humanitarian aid to North Korea and a threat of economic sanctions if progress is not made.
If China, the North's biggest trading partner, could be convinced to join the effort, "the North Korean regime would change in an instant," Abe said, adding that China might be persuaded to join in UN-sponsored sanctions if the North fails to adequately respond to six-nation talks aimed at getting it to abandon its nuclear weapons development program.
China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the US have held several round of talks on dismantling the North's nuclear program, but progress has been stalled.
Meanwhile, a Japanese newspaper said yesterday said that Japan and the US have agreed a joint plan on a strategy to be followed should war break out on the Korean peninsula.
The report of the plan, which the Asahi Shimbun said was signed in 2002, comes days after Japan unveiled a revamped defense policy that hints at a shift from the purely defensive posture in place since its defeat in World War Two.
The scenario envisages Japan providing support for US troops fighting in Korea. The Japanese would at the same time be guarding against possible invasion by hundreds of North Korean agents, Asahi said, without citing sources.
Under the plan, code-numbered 5055, Japan's military has agreed to help out with the search and rescue of US troops missing in action, Asahi said.