Japan Promotes Asian Economic Bloc - WSJ.com TOKYO -- When the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea meet for a trilateral summit in Beijing on Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will try to persuade his counterparts to share his vision that Asia needs its own economic bloc. Since taking office last month, Mr. Hatoyama has repeatedly discussed his desire to create what he calls an East Asian Community, a regional alliance inspired by the European Union. The meeting will be the first major test of his plan, which faces obstacles that include regional rivalries and decades of mistrust following World War II. The proposal is a key part of Mr. Hatoyama's effort to recalibrate foreign policy after more than five decades of nearly uninterrupted rule by a party closely aligned with the U.S. His new ruling Democratic Party of Japan sees the alliance as a way to deepen ties with growing neighbors as well as preserve its clout amid a weakening economy. Mr. Hatoyama is visiting Bejing on Saturday to sit down with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Japanese foreign-ministry officials say one of the main topics of the meeting will be North Korea, after Mr. Wen visited North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang last week. Mr. Hatoyama will stop in Seoul on Friday to meet first with Mr. Lee. South Korean diplomats have welcomed Mr. Hatoyama's promise not to visit a Tokyo shrine honoring Japan's war dead, including more than 1,000 individuals classified as convicted war criminals from World War II. Mr. Lee has tried to tamp down some nationalist disputes with Japan since he took office last year, saying he thinks the two countries' relationship should be "future-focused." China's reaction to the proposed alliance has been cool, according to Japanese officials speaking after Mr. Hatoyama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in New York last month. Still, Chinese state-controlled media has also responded positively to Mr. Hatoyama's vow not to visit the war shrine. The U.S. has expressed caution about Mr. Hatoyama's proposal. "It's important for Japan and the countries of East Asia that they work closely together, they interact, that they have high-level dialogue," Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in an interview with TV Tokyo in late September. "It's not in America's interest to see a dialogue or a formation come together that excludes the United States." A European Union trade spokesman declined to comment Thursday. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said the group should include Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The group should initially focus on economic cooperation, he said, but an EU-style close integration is "very far off in the future" given the nations' diverse political systems and economies. "The first thing we have to look at is how we can deepen our economic ties," Mr. Okada said. "Once we have an economic foundation, we can expand the relationship to encompass other sectors." The nations together accounted for 23% of the world's economic output last year, compared with 24% for the U.S. and 30% for the EU, according to Japanese foreign-ministry data. Economists widely expect China will overtake Japan as the world's No.2 economy within a year. Japanese officials have expressed concerns about the shrinking role of the Group of Seven rich nations, as the Group of 20 becomes the main forum for global economic issues. Among the obstacles any alliance would have to overcome is skepticism over each nation's political intent.