China PM says role of China, Japan important for E. Asian prosperity

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the importance of China and Japan in achieving regional prosperity when he met with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in Beijing on Friday, a source who was present at the meeting said.

"Japan and China have important responsibilities when thinking about the development of the entire East Asian" region, Li was quoted as telling Hatoyama in the Great Hall of the People, showing the value he attaches to bilateral relations.

Hatoyama was among around 40 prominent people from China and abroad to meet with Li as they attended a forum organized by a government-affiliated think tank.

Noting how China-Japan ties are not moving forward, Li showed his eagerness to seek ways to promote bilateral cooperation, the source said.

Bilateral ties have soured over the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, with Japan asserting that the islands, which China claims and refers to as Diaoyu, are an inherent part of Japanese territory historically and under international law.

Neither Li nor Hatoyama made comments related to the Senkakus, the source said.

Hatoyama, who did not run in last December's general election and has retired from politics, asked Li for his thoughts regarding the creation of an East Asian community akin to the European Union, the source said.

Li said the idea, which was put forward by Hatoyama while he was prime minister, is an "important concept" aimed toward Asia's development, according to the source.