Hatoyama suggests a Korea-China-Japan axis

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Hatoyama suggests a Korea-China-Japan axis


Distinguished guests of the 14th annual Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity gather on Thursday at the International Convention Center Jeju on Korea’s southernmost island ahead of the forum’s opening ceremony. [WOO SANG-JO]

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Tokyo is “relying too heavily” on the United States and that it should pivot towards Seoul and Beijing to form some sort of East Asian regional community pursuing peace and prosperity.

Hatoyama, who served as Japan’s head of government from September 2009 to June 2010, said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 14th Jeju Forum for Peace & Prosperity on Thursday that his country’s current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, shouldn’t merely support U.S. President Donald Trump but also show a willingness to actively cooperate with South Korea as well.

Hatoyama denounced the Abe administration for not expressing enough contrition for its atrocities against South Korea in the early 20th century when Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula, saying that attitude is hindering Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo from forming a regional community based on “brotherly love.”

The former prime minister suggested an “East Asia regional community council” to be established either in Japan’s Okinawa or South Korea’s Jeju Island to discuss a wide range of issues pertaining to the three nations, such as national security, the environment, energy, education and culture.

Regional organizations can work on difficult topics that are hard to hammer down in bigger organizations like the United Nations, Hatoyama said. Later, regional groups can come together to pin down final conclusions on a global scale, he continued.

Hatoyama was among three distinguished guests who made a keynote speech in the opening ceremony and later participated in the forum’s key World Leaders Session, which was entitled, “Asia Towards Resilient Peace: Cooperation and Integration.”

The session was moderated by Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of JoongAng Holdings, who worked as an economist at the World Bank in the 1970s and ’80s, after which he served as South Korea’s ambassador to the United States. In 2017, Hong visited the White House to meet Trump as South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special envoy.

The other two panelists in the session were Heinz Fischer, former president of Austria, and Malcolm Turnbull, former Australian prime minister.

Fischer took a jab at Trump’s “America-first” policy as well his numerous calls to withdraw from international pacts.

“In my opinion,” said Fischer, “the decision of President Trump to withdraw from the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty], from the Paris Climate Agreement and from the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action with Iran is not helpful.”

Those actions, the former Austrian president went on, makes denuclearization negotiations with Pyongyang more difficult.

Former Australian Prime Minister Turnbull stressed that, more than ever before, countries in the East Asian region have to cooperate with each other because their economies are growing at vast speeds.

“Strong economies create stronger militaries and military capability,” said Turnbull. “Increased wealth creates a stronger strategic ambition among nations. Combine strategic ambition with military strength and you create potential regional flash points - flash points to which we must be alert to.”

In a discussion of the European Union as a regional community, Chairman Hong pointed out that Asia was very different from Europe, with countries that are way more diverse in terms of population size, gross domestic product, religion and cultural heritages. Asked whether a regional community in East Asia is a realistic idea, Hatoyama said countries can acknowledge each other’s differences through “the spirit of brotherly love.”

The former Japanese prime minister was open to the idea of Japan, South Korea and China joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) or South Korea and Japan joining China’s so-called Belt and Road Initiative.

Hatoyama said he met Chinese President Xi Jinping last December during a meeting between Xi and former leaders. When he told Xi he hoped the Belt and Road Initiative would be carried out on the spirit of brotherly love, Xi replied that's what his project is all about.

Hatoyama, at one point, drew applause from the audience when he mentioned that the Japanese government should apologize to its former colonies to the point that those countries say they’ve heard enough.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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