Cablegate: Prime Minister Hatoyama's Focus On China

DE RUEHKO #2329/01 2800901
R 070901Z OCT 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TOKYO 002329



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/09/2019

B. TOKYO 984

TOKYO 00002329 001.2 OF 004

Classified By: CDA James P. Zumwalt for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Prime Minister (PM) Yukio Hatoyama has
made Sino-Japanese ties a foreign policy priority as he seeks
to establish political footing abroad. A key policy
challenge facing his new Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led
coalition government is maintaining the current political
goodwill between Japan and China and advancing the still
somewhat amorphous concept of a ""mutually beneficial
relationship based on common strategic interests."" The PM
set the policy tone early when, in the run-up to the August
30 general election, he publicly declared his longstanding
opposition to official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Press
statements and recent speeches suggest that Hatoyama sees
regional mechanisms, mainly his much-publicized ""East Asia
Community"" (EAC) concept, as a way to realize his China
policy objectives and to enhance ties beyond traditional
bilateral frameworks. The PM, however, must weigh the
diverse set of views within his party as well as those of DPJ
Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, whose perspective on China in
the past has shaped the party's public position on the issue.
Potential limits to cooperation with Beijing exist, despite
Hatoyama's outreach efforts. Japan continues to search for
ways to hold frank discussions on key concerns such as
Chinese military modernization and longstanding maritime and
territorial disputes. END SUMMARY

2. (C) One of the key policy challenges facing the new
DPJ-led coalition government is advancing the policy
initiated by Prime Minister Hatoyama's immediate predecessors
to improve relations with China. Tokyo Embassy interlocutors
agree that Sino-Japanese ties have improved markedly since
the tension-filled years of former Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi. Since 2006, Japan and China have held several
high-level meetings at bilateral, trilateral, and
multilateral venues, deepened trade ties and economic
interdependence, and accelerated military confidence-building
discussions on issues such as disaster relief and antipiracy.
Japan's China observers, however, cite longstanding maritime
and territorial disputes, divergent interpretations of
Japan's wartime past, China's poor food and product safety
record, and the country's growing military, economic, and
political regional and global influence as underlying strains
that continue to bedevil overall ties and test Prime Minister
Hatoyama and his government.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Adopting Finer Points of Previous Administrations
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (C) Keenly cognizant of China's increasing economic and
political importance and mindful of the sensitivities
inherent in the relationship, Hatoyama has made Sino-Japanese
ties a foreign policy priority as he seeks to establish
political footing domestically and abroad. He appears to be
following a somewhat reliable blueprint mapped out by his
immediate predecessors, Taro Aso, Yasuo Fukuda, and Shinzo
Abe. Although universally panned for their leadership
limitations, the troika of former prime ministers maintained
smooth ties by stressing the importance of high-level
dialogue and visits, and by avoiding visits to the
controversial Yasukuni Shrine--the commemorative resting
place of Japan's war dead, including 14 class A war
criminals. Aso himself met Chinese leadership multiple times
during his short tenure. In this way, Hatoyama's approach to
China can be considered an area of policy continuity with the
Aso government.

4. (C) Hatoyama set the policy tone early when, in the run-up
to the August 30 general election, he publicly declared his
longstanding opposition to official visits to Yasukuni
Shrine. In August, during the Shrine's fall festival, the
DPJ leader publicly stated his intention not to visit the
Shrine and underscored his preference for all Cabinet members
to do the same. Hatoyama's decision to appoint Katsuya Okada

TOKYO 00002329 002.2 OF 004

as Foreign Minister (FM) also resonated positively with
China, given Okada's stance on Japan's wartime
responsibility, MOFA officials told U.S. Embassy Tokyo.
""Japan must properly assess the fact that it embarked on that
wretched, foolish war,"" Okada has declared in the past.

5. (C) Hatoyama has sustained his policy focus on China since
becoming prime minister. In his first press conference as
the nation's leader on September 17, Hatoyama called for
building a ""relationship of trust"" with China. He expounded
on this ideal during the September 21 meeting with Chinese
President Hu on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New
York. The two leaders agreed to deepen bilateral ties and
make the relationship ""more substantive,"" according to press
readouts and Embassy MOFA contacts. Hatoyama underscored the
importance of acknowledging and overcoming differences. On
history-related issues, for example, he conveyed support for
then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 statement of
""regret and remorse"" over past Japanese militarism. On
disputed offshore gas fields in the East China Sea (ECS),
Hatoyama proposed creating a ""Sea of Fraternity,"" to which Hu
responded by raising his own calls for a sea of ""peace,
friendship, and cooperation"" as well as the advent of
long-awaited bilateral negotiations, postponed since both
sides signed a joint development agreement in June 2008.
Hatoyama will continue these efforts to improve relations
during his October 10 trip to Beijing, where he is scheduled
to meet Hu again on the margins of the second trilateral
Japan-China-South Korea Summit (septel).

6. (C) Embassy sources tell us that Chinese officials are
responding positively to Hatoyama's gestures. Beijing
invited Hatoyama to visit China in September, MOFA officials
told Embassy Tokyo. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sent a
congratulatory message to Hatoyama on September 16 calling
for stronger bilateral relations ""starting from a new
historic threshold."" Wen expressed hope the two countries
could work together to push for ""fresh developments."" ""As
neighbors, efforts to deepen the mutual trust and cooperation
between China and Japan are in keeping with the fundamental
interests of both nations and their people,"" the Chinese
Premier stated.

East Asia Community as Means to Manage China

7. (C) Press statements and recent overseas speeches suggest
that Hatoyama sees regional mechanisms, including his
much-publicized ""East Asia Community"" (EAC) concept, as a way
to realize his China policy objectives and to enhance ties
beyond traditional bilateral frameworks. Although his EAC
vision lacks granularity at this early stage and has been the
subject of much media criticism for being ""unrealistic"" and
""outdated,"" Hatoyama is still pitching the idea to regional
counterparts, most notably to Hu during their meeting on
September 21. He told Hu that the ""Community"" would be based
on a ""fraternity spirit"" in Asia. The PM sees China as the
key to jump-starting the EAC ideal and appears more sanguine
than other leaders about tackling political issues as they
relate to a potential Community. Hatoyama told Hu that
resolving the countries' prolonged disputes could be the
starting point, according to MOFA China Division officials.
Hatoyama's ""Sea of Fraternity"" vision and efforts to
strengthen existing partnerships, to China and ASEAN member
countries for example, could serve as the foundation for the
broader Community idea, other MOFA officials add. Tsuyoshi
Yamaguchi, a DPJ lawmaker and member of Deputy Prime Minister
Naoto Kan's National Strategy Bureau (NSB), has told us that
he (Yamaguchi) is working on building momentum and fleshing
out the EAC idea by focusing on a few concrete cooperative
initiatives with China and Korea. For example, Yamaguchi is
considering pursuing ECS development as an ""Asian project.""

8. (C) Speculation abounds about the content and overall
composition of the framework as well as Chinese receptivity
to the EAC, but one consistent message from our interlocutors

TOKYO 00002329 003.2 OF 004

has been that the EAC is a long term vision and that the
concept does not necessarily exclude the United States.
Hatoyama stressed this point during his first press
conference as prime minister. The specifics are still
developing, but the EAC would ""not lessen the importance of
U.S.-Japan relations,"" senior DPJ member Kozo Watanabe told
us. MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General
Akitaka Saiki has downplayed U.S. concerns about the idea as
well. Having briefed Hatoyama multiple times on Asia policy,
he assured Embassy Tokyo that the new administration wants
the United States to play a major regional role.

9. (C) In his remarks October 7 at the Foreign
Correspondent's Club, Okada reiterated that a strong alliance
with the United States and better relations with Japan's
neighbors can be pursued simultaneously. Okada outlined his
vision of the EAC as comprising ASEAN, China, Japan, Korea,
Australia, New Zealand, and India. The United States is not
excluded in the same way Japan does not feel excluded from
the EU or NAFTA, he said. The upcoming Japan-China-Korea
Summit in Beijing provides a chance to expound on the EAC
concept, Okada added. Initially, the focus should be on
deepening economic interdependence and cooperation on energy,
environment, and public heath. Some MOFA officials reiterate
Okada's point that only energy-, health-, and
environment-related issues will fill the main agenda to
start. During his September 28 meeting with Chinese Foreign
Minister Yang Jiechi in Shanghai, FM Okada mentioned that
policy coordination should begin in these three areas before
gradually transitioning to more politically sensitive issues,
according to MOFA's China managers. However, some Embassy
contacts, such as DPJ foreign policy expert and Vice Minister
for Internal Affairs and Communication Shu Watanabe, describe
the EAC concept as nothing more than an effort to increase
people-to-people contact. Economic integration and other
hard topics will not move forward, Shu Watanabe insists.

10. (C) Although idealistic in tone, Hatoyama's vision subtly
mirrors a general view shared by several Embassy
interlocutors who take a more hardline approach to China.
They stress the importance of using multilateral mechanisms
to ""lock"" China in, encourage Beijing to abide by
international standards and norms, and encircle the country
by strengthening ties to third country neighbors, such as
South Korea and ASEAN. Japan's China observers regularly
cite Beijing's preference to deal with countries bilaterally
often in contravention of global concerns regarding human
rights, rule of law, and democratic processes. They see
Chinese membership in mechanisms such as APEC, the East Asia
Summit, and ASEAN-related groupings as a way, in part, to
compel Beijing to play responsibly and by the rules.

Japan as Regional Link

11. (C) Hatoyama probably envisions his objectives in Asia as
serving the additional purpose of enhancing Japan's role as
link between the region and the United States. Japan can
serve as a ""connector"" between Asia and the United States,
Okada reportedly told Chinese Foreign Minister Yang in
Shanghai on September 28. Hatoyama has sought to assure
concerned parties that an EAC and robust Sino-Japanese ties
do not come at the expense of relations with Japan's most
important ally, despite his much-publicized desire to
reevaluate the parameters of the Alliance. The PM also has
said that improvement in Sino-Japanese ties is a plus for the
United States, just as improvement in U.S.-China ties is a
plus for Japan.

--------------------------------------------- -
Potential Room for Policy Unity Within the DPJ
--------------------------------------------- -

12. (C) Some Embassy interlocutors argue that policy cohesion
on issues such as China is more possible than before as the
DPJ matures from a party of sundry political transplants to a
party comprising original DPJ members, starting with the 143

TOKYO 00002329 004.2 OF 004

first-term DPJ Diet members elected on August 30. Absent
concrete policy details, members agree on the importance of
Sino-Japanese ties as part of an overall foreign policy
approach to Asia. Hatoyama's and Okada's inaugural press
conference statements reinforced the main points outlined in
pre-election party Manifesto calls for ""proactive foreign
relations"" and a more ""Asia-centered"" foreign policy.

Internal and External Challenges Exist

13. (C) That said, Hatoyama must still manage ideological
diversity within his party on issues related to China. DPJ
members differ on the extent to which they see China as a
threat, and on the extent to which they view bilateral and
multilateral engagement as a means to curb Chinese influence
in Asia. DPJ members who downplay Chinese military and
political intentions view engagement with China and other
regional neighbors primarily as tool to strengthen ties
within the region. Party centrists and more right-of-center
conservatives see engagement as a way to check and counter
China's growing regional influence (Ref A). There also
exists the preference of some members within Hatoyama's
party, and within the ruling coalition more broadly, to take
a hardline stance against China's human rights record,
particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang, and to support Taiwan
membership in international organizations--a view held by DPJ
member and Defense Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Akihisa
Nagashima and by Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan, among

14. (C) Hatoyama also must weigh the views of DPJ Secretary
General Ichiro Ozawa, whose perspective on China has, in the
past, helped shape the party's public position on the issue.
Ozawa enjoys ties to China--he meets annually with Chinese
leadership--while at the same time is a large Taiwan
supporter, MOFA officials told Embassy Tokyo. Ozawa was
instrumental in recruiting the newest crop of DPJ Diet
members and is thus in position to infuse his own policy
preferences into China-related issues.

15. (C) There are potential limits to cooperation with
Beijing as well, despite Hatoyama's outreach efforts. Japan
continues to call for frank discussions on key concerns such
as Chinese military modernization and longstanding maritime
and territorial disputes (Ref B). The East China Sea and
disputes over the Senkaku Islands remain a ""big problem,""
MOFA's China Division regularly notes. Japanese public
opinion on such sovereignty-related issues, and ongoing
concerns about China's food and product safety record, among
other issues, could further constrain Hatoyama's efforts.

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