Former Prime Minister: Japan Should Shelve the Islands Dispute With China to Avoid A Spiral into Conflict

BEIJING—Breaking ranks with the current policy of the Japanese government, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told the official China Daily in an interview that his country should seek to repair rapidly souring relations with China before they “spiral into military conflict.”

Hatoyama was in Beijing for the third World Peace Forum which he attended from June 21-22 along with other former prime ministers from Russia, France, Pakistan and Malaysia.

As the China Daily reported, Hatoyama said that Japan should abide by a 1972 agreement by the two country’s leaders that put aside their contentions over the islands Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu in order to improve relations. “Shelving the dispute is a more cooperative approach,” he said, “Only by doing so can we rein in the dispute and prevent it from spiraling into conflict.”

On the eve of becoming prime minister in 2009, Hatoyama created cross-Pacific controversy by writing an essay in the Japanese magazine, VOICE, that criticized American-led globalization and envisioned an integrated “East Asian Community” like the European Union.

In his China Daily interview, Hatoyama further said that improving cooperative relations with China and not isolating itself through its actions was a high priority because “there will be a day when Japan places the same emphasis on its relations with China as it does on the US today.”

Despite mounting pessimism over the crisis, the former prime minister professed
“faith in the possibility” that the relationship will be repaired. “At this point in time, friendship tells its own value.”