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Japan Urges ASEAN to Include US


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Japan has urged Southeast Asian leaders to establish an east asian community that could include the United States as a member. During meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Thailand Japan's prime minister said the economic bloc should be an open organization.

During a second day of summit meetings, Japan's prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, encouraged heads of Southeast Asian nations to build a strong economic community that could act as a world leader.

But he indicated Japan wanted the United States to play a strong role in the region, perhaps as a member of a new body.

Japanese spokesman Kazuo Kodama said the prime minister told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that the Japan-U.S. alliance was the fundamental cornerstone of Japan's diplomatic policy.

"At the same time, he said, he now upholds a long-term vision of establishing an East Asia Community in accordance with the open regionalism," said Kazuo Kodama. "He very much intends to promote intra-regional cooperation in east Asia."

Kazuo said ASEAN had yet to discuss if the U.S. would be invited to join any community and it was not clear if any other leaders attending the meetings supported Japan's position.

ASEAN has vowed to form an East Asian economic community by 2015 similar to the European Union, but there is no consensus on which countries outside of ASEAN would be allowed to join.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met Saturday with leaders from China, Japan, South Korea, and India.

ASEAN also issued a statement expressing concern about North Korea's nuclear programs and that Burma's elections scheduled for next year be free and fair. But, unlike past ASEAN statements, this one made no mention of the ongoing detention of Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and more than two thousand other political prisoners.

Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya noted to journalists that both Aung San Suu Kyi and the United States had initiated dialogue with Burma's military government and indicated that therefore a strong statement was not necessary. He said Burma had also taken positive steps with its planned election.

"But I think the ASEAN position or the international community position remains firm, without any change in terms of the inclusiveness, free and fair and the release of all the political prisoners," said Kasit Piromya. "I think it is in the process."

Kasit said tensions between Cambodia and Thailand had eased during the day's meetings.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier welcomed deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to stay in his country despite his being wanted in Thailand on corruption charges.

The three days of meetings also feature bilateral discussions.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported a consensus was reached between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to try to resolve a border dispute.

China protested Mr. Singh's visit last month to the area and a planned visit next month by the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.