| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

China, Japan, South Korea agree to boost trilateral ties, seek summit

China’s, Japan’s, and South Korea’s foreign ministries agreed on Sunday to rekindle cooperation among Asian neighbors and pave the way for a summit of their three leaders, in the latest effort to defuse tensions in the critical area.

Even as China and the US heal strained ties, including a summit between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden this month, Beijing is anxious that Washington and its major regional allies are deepening their three-way partnership.

Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo had agreed on annual summits from 2008 to bolster diplomatic and economic exchanges, but two-way rows and the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the plan, with the three leaders last meeting in 2019.

The three top diplomats met in the South Korean port of Busan for their first such meeting since 2019, after officials of the three countries agreed in September to arrange a trilateral summit at the “earliest convenient time”.

The three ministers did not specify a timeframe for the trilateral summit.

China’s Xi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol may not be able to meet this year, but their summit is likely in the near future, South Korea’s national security advisor Cho Tae-yong told Yonhap news TV.

The ministers agreed in their 100-minute talks to advance cooperation in six areas, including security, economy and technology, and promote concrete discussions to prepare for the summit, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, who was also concerned about North Korean issues, told his counterparts it was “important to further institutionalise trilateral cooperation so that it will develop into a stable and sustainable system”, his ministry said in a statement.

China’s Wang Yi said the three countries should play an active role in promoting regional and global development with a “more progressive manner and attitude.”

Japan’s Yoko Kamikawa said greater trilateral cooperation would contribute to regional peace as the international security situation has become “more severe and complex than ever.”

In bilateral talks, Park and Kamikawa condemned North Korea’s launch last week of its first spy satellite and agreed to boost responses to arms deals between Pyongyang and Moscow, Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Marring the co-operative tone, Kamikawa described as “extremely regrettable” a South Korean court’s order for Japan to compensate a group of women forced to work in its wartime brothels and asked Seoul to take appropriate measures, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said.

Park, meeting separately with China’s Wang, invited him to visit Seoul, and they agreed to reinforce strategic communications, Seoul said. Park asked for China to play a constructive role in encouraging North Korea to avoid further provocations and take the path toward denuclearisation.

Beijing’s foreign ministry said Wang warned Park not to politicise economic and technology issues, amid China-U.S. tension over semiconductors and other trade disputes.

Kamikawa, meeting Wang on Saturday, expressed hopes for a security dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing “in the near future”. Wang highlighted the need for China and Japan to ensure they “do not pose a threat” to each another and respect the legitimate concerns of each, Beijing said.

South Korea’s Yoon and Japan’s Kishida have moved to mend ties frayed by history and trade feuds, holding a historic three-way summit in August with Biden.

In July, Wang warned that U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Seoul and Tokyo could fan regional tension and spark confrontation.

  • Reuters