Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Koizumi flies Asian flag

AP , SAVANNAH, GEORGIA

He put in a pitch for trading with China. He talked about his recent visit to the isolated communist enclave of North Korea. And, of course, he explained his own recent successes in turning around Japan's economic difficulties.

In two days of meetings dominated by Western powers and their concerns over peace in the Middle East and poverty in Africa, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi tried to keep Asia on the radar at this year's summit of the world's leading industrialized nations.

"We don't think only of the G8 members' interests at G8 meetings," Koizumi said at a news conference at the end of the three-day summit on Thursday. "Of course, Japan is thinking of Asian issues."

He was only partially successful at getting his fellow leaders on the same page, however.

Japanese officials commenting on the summit -- which included the international debut of Iraq's new interim president and the participation of several African leaders -- said they felt it was deeply colored by the agenda of the host.

For Japan, which strongly supports the US, that is not necessarily a criticism.

The same officials stressed they viewed the summit as productive and, by and large, a success.

But, with only one wholly Asian nation in the Group of Eight, they admitted that bringing the concerns of the world's most populous region to the front burner can be difficult.

A senior delegation official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said Koizumi had done what he could to represent Asia.

Koizumi, he noted, updated the other leaders on his visit to North Korea last month and, at the behest of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, raised the issue of rising oil prices, which have hit non-producers in Asia and elsewhere hard.

But Japan has not been keen to allow other Asian nations into the exclusive G8 club.

It long opposed the inclusion of Russia, and still expresses reservations about Moscow's increasing role in the group's economic discussions. Japan has also been less than enthusiastic to embrace a suggestion by Italy to bring China and India into the G8 fold.

At a news conference, Koizumi refused to comment on whether the two countries should be admitted.

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