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A government foreign policy advisory panel recommended Thursday that Japan seek gradual changes in North Korea instead of pursuing a “quick overthrow of the current regime” and use economic aid as a carrot.

Yukio Okamoto, a foreign policy critic who heads the nine-member panel, submitted the finalized recommendations to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

The task force was launched in September 2001 to help the government formulate a basic diplomatic strategy for the new century.

The 39-page report, which covers a wide range of foreign policy areas, says it is “impossible to normalize Japan-North Korean ties without resolving a series of problems caused by the North, including abductions, nuclear (arms) and missile development, spy boats and drug-smuggling.”

The report calls for efforts to “transform North Korea’s political and economic systems step by step, rather than quickly overthrowing its current regime, and to pave the way for North Korea’s active participation in the international community.”

Japanese economic aid to North Korea will become a “useful tool” to achieve this end, the report says, adding that such assistance should be provided after pending problems are resolved and diplomatic ties are established.

On a more general front, the task force also proposed that Japanese diplomatic strategy be beefed up by creating a strategic council on diplomacy and security.

The panel said that such a council is needed to strengthen the prime minister’s diplomatic authority.

The panel also said that people with expert knowledge should be allowed to present the prime minister with diplomatic options based on their own perspectives, independently from the Foreign Ministry, the officials said.

Regarding Japan’s security alliance with the United States, the report recommends a “comprehensively review” of the relationship so that bilateral ties can be further strengthened.

Specifically, the report attributes the need for a review to the fact that the current security treaty has been in place for more than 40 years without being significantly updated, despite a changing international situation.

On the global economy, Japan, as the world’s second-largest economic engine, should “swiftly terminate its bad-loan problem and simultaneously reform its economic structure,” the report says.

The report also urges consolidation of Japan’s official development assistance in light of the current tight budgetary situation.

To maximize the effect of such assistance, Tokyo should focus on efforts to “integrate economies” by promoting free-trade agreements in East Asia so that the entire region can prosper, the report says.

The report calls Japan’s ODA for China a major concern and says Tokyo should provide ODA in a way that directly addresses Japan’s national interests.

There are concerns that Japan’s economic aid to China has allowed Beijing to bolster the country’s military might.

The report also said that Tokyo should shift to the development phase of a defense system to protect the nation from ballistic missiles, from the current research phase, the officials said.

It urges the government to study defensive action on the seas on the assumption of some type of international military action against Iraq and the overseas dispatch of noncombat Self-Defense Forces units to take part in various international activities without United Nations resolutions, they said.

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