Hatoyama proposes creating an ‘Asian EU’

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed the formation of an East Asian community along the lines of the European Union in his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

The two leaders, meeting late Monday, also agreed to deepen bilateral ties, work closely toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and make progress on a snagged joint gas-development project in the East China Sea.

Hatoyama said he wants to make the two nations’ strategic and mutually beneficial relations “more substantial,” according to Japanese officials.

“I talked about an international relationship based on my ‘fraternity’ spirit, and I told him Japan and China should acknowledge and overcome differences and build relations of trust, from which I would like to pursue the idea of forming an entire East Asian community,” Hatoyama said.

He said he wants the regional community to be built along lines similar to the European Union.

The two leaders, in New York to attend meetings at the United Nations, also agreed to work closely to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Hatoyama told reporters.

On the controversial joint energy development project, Hatoyama told Hu that he wants to transform the troubled waters of the East China Sea into a “sea of fraternity.”

Hatoyama suggested that the two countries, whose ties have often been strained over disputed gas fields in the East China Sea, should draw up a treaty to work out details and get the project, which was agreed on in June 2008, moving. Hu proposed the launch of working-level meetings to boost mutual confidence on the matter, according to the officials.

Their meeting was held “in a friendly atmosphere, in which both of us expressed what we had in mind,” Hatoyama said.

According to the officials, Hatoyama spoke to Hu without reading from a text prepared by bureaucrats, which was the practice under Liberal Democratic Party governments.

The DPJ-led administration is working to wrest power from bureaucrats in policymaking, saying that an overreliance on civil servants has resulted in wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money.

Lauding Hatoyama as a “good, old friend of the Chinese,” Hu said at the start of their talks, “I hope and I am confident that China-Japan ties will develop more actively, ushering in a new phase for a more extensive development.”

Noting that he met many times with Hatoyama when the DPJ was in opposition, Hu said, “You have shown a consistent interest in the China-Japan relationship for a long time and have supported it.”

Chinese media welcomed Hatoyama’s election Sept. 16, as he promised not to visit Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals along with the war dead and is regarded by China and other countries as a symbol of Japanese military aggression.

The two leaders are likely to meet again separately on the sidelines of three-way talks with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak in China next month.

Japan-China relations soured under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi due to his repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine, but his successors — Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso — concentrated on rebuilding the relationship.

During his six-day trip to the United States, Hatoyama will also meet with other foreign leaders including President Barack Obama and Lee.