12/13/2004, 00.00
JAPAN – NORTH KOREA
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Tokyo might force Pyongyang to bend

Japan threatens North Korea with economic sanctions and an end to food aid.  Tokyo is trying to get China to join in.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan might force Kim Jong-Il's regime to bend. The Japanese government is in fact planning to cut off food aid and impose economic sanctions against North Korea if the Communist regime refuses to cooperate in finding abducted Japanese citizens and stall on nuclear talks.

Shinzo Abe, general secretary of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, yesterday warned that if China joined in, North Korean president Kim might be deposed.

Mr Abe urged Pyongyang to follow the example of Libya and its leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who last year agreed to dismantle Libya's programme of weapons of mass destruction and allow international inspectors into the country. "If he doesn't make that choice, then there could be regime change," Abe said

On Friday, a 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 was not made.

According to Abe, China might be convinced to join United Nations sanctions against North Korea if the latter refused to join nuclear talks. However, there are strong doubts that this might happen.

China is the North's biggest trading partner and its main supplier of energy and food (in a year, it provides about 220,000 tons of wheat).

Abe said he was convinced that Japanese sanctions alone could strike a blow at Kim's regime and its prostrate economy. Since the beginning of 2004, Japan has sent 125,000 tons in food aid to North Korea.

In the meantime, North Korea's Foreign Ministry has released a note saying that North Korea might reconsider participating in nuclear talks because the US is an "extremely disgusting and hateful" partner for spreading over the past month rumours about changes in the leadership of the communist regime.

North Korea admitted having abducted 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, but claims that 8 have died. It has not however provided convincing evidence of their death.

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