Hashimoto arrives in Brunei to strengthen ASEAN ties

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei — Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto arrived in Brunei Jan. 7 for the first leg of his eight-day tour of five of the seven members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.Hashimoto later held talks with the head of state of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Regular summits Hashimoto is hoping to establish will help expand Japan’s ASEAN relations, which have been primarily focused on economic matters, the prime minister said. His overall policies for the Asia-Pacific area will be outlined in a speech Jan. 14 in Singapore, another ASEAN member.ASEAN’s expected acceptance of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar as members in the future is a theme Hashimoto highlighted during the visit. He said that expanding dialogue with Southeast Asian leaders to include matters other than economics was also important because the “big potential” of ASEAN.Hashimoto’s eight-day trip comes as the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Peru drags into its 21st day. “It would be a lie if I said the situation (in Peru) doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “But we must not yield to terrorism, and (the crisis) should not hamper political duties,” Hashimoto said. Hashimoto had considered postponing the tour to attend to the Peru crisis but instead decided to stick to his plan to visit the countries as scheduled.