In a bitter personal attack, Norio Ohga, chairman of the Japanese electronics giant, compared the Japanese prime minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, to Herbert Hoover, the American president who lead the country into the Great Depression in 1929. "Hoover was saying things too similar to what Hashimoto has been saying recently," he said at a reception in Tokyo to mark the beginning of the financial year.
Mr Ohga's attack came as Asian leaders, including Mr Hashimoto, gathered in London for an Asia-Europe summit that began with an informal dinner at Downing Street last night, and officially opens today.
Economic relations between the EU and the Asian countries will top the agenda, including ways of seeking to contain the effects of the financial crisis that has rocked the region's markets.
The British government is keen to put hiccups over Hong Kong behind it. There was talk yesterday of how Tony Blair was "fascinated" and "full of admiration" for the plans of Zhu Rongji, the economic reformer who is the new Chinese prime minister. The atmosphere at the first EU-China summit this week was said to have had "a really constructive feel".
Not everybody will have been reassured. Three Nobel prizewinners were among those who addressed an "alternative reception" in London yesterday, which was co-sponsored by The Independent.
The reception, for "the unrepresented peoples of Asia" was hosted by the actress Joanna Lumley, who called on the Government "to show us the change we are still waiting to see". The organisers included human rights groups focusing on Burma, Indonesia and Tibet. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, sent a video message which had been smuggled out of Burma.
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