Kono to gather South Asia views ahead of G8 meet

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono will make a five-day visit from April 28 to Singapore, Indonesia and East Timor, Foreign Ministry sources said Tuesday.

Kono will use the Golden Week holidays to talk with leaders there. The purpose of the visits, the sources said, is to allow Tokyo to better reflect Asian views at the July 21-23 Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture.

Kono particularly wants to hear their views on how to bridge the “digital divide” — the information technology gao between advanced and developing countries — and how to address perceived detrimental aspects of economic globalization, the sources said.

In Singapore, Kono plans to hold talks with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar.

He will then move on to Indonesia to underline Japan’s commitment to assisting economic and political reforms in meetings with President Abdurrahman Wahid and other leaders, the sources said.

In East Timor, Kono will hold talks with independence leader Xanana Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, and Sergio Viera de Mello, the special representative of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and head of the U.N. Transitional Administration in East Timor, the sources said.

He will convey Japan’s intention to continue financial and personnel assistance for East Timor, the sources said.

Kono had originally planned to visit New York during the holidays to attend a U.N. conference on reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

But in what one source described as “a division of roles,” Kono changed his plan because new Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori intends to visit the seven other G8 nations for “get-acquainted” talks with their leaders before the Okinawa summit.