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PoliticsSouth Korea

South Korea, China, Japan chart course on trilateral summit

November 26, 2023

The foreign ministers of East Asia's three largest economies have met in South Korea to lay the groundwork for a trilateral leaders' summit, which has not taken place since 2019.

A round table at a trilateral meeting in South Korea
The foreign ministers of the three countries discussed both competition and cooperation at a meeting in BusanImage: Ahn Young-joon/AFP

The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan met in the South Korean port city of Busan on Sunday and agreed the three countries should hold a leaders' summit at the earliest, mutually convenient time," South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin told reporters. 

"We agreed to expedite the necessary preparations," he said after meeting his Chinese and Japanese counterparts, without providing a specific time frame. 

The three countries in 2008 had agreed to hold trilateral summits every year in order to improve regional cooperation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, along strained bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea over historical disputes, have been stumbling blocks.

Japan, S. Korea seek strategic cooperation, amid historical tension 

"Korea, Japan and China have the potential for massive cooperation. Our three countries are neighbors that can't be separated from one another," Park said at the start of the meetings Sunday.

The South Korean foreign minister said talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa focused on containing the threat from North Korea. The two condemned the North's recent launch of a spy satellite and agreed to work together on responses to alleged arms deals between Pyongyang and Moscow, Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, tensions over South Korea's demand that Japan financially compensate South Koreans forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during World War II is a persistent sore spot in relations between the two countries.

Earlier this week, a Seoul court ordered Japan pay financial compensation. During her meeting with Park Sunday, Kamikawa called the court verdict "extremely regrettable"

China warns against 'politicizing' economics 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he supported reviving three-way cooperation with South Korea and Japan, both of which are Washington's main strategic partners in East Asia as China is locked in an economic and strategic rivalry with the US

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he reaffirmed cooperation with JapanImage: Ahn Young-joon/AFP

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wang warned Park during talks not to "politicize" economic and technology issues, as tensions continue with the US over semiconductors and other trade disputes.

On Saturday, Japan's Kamikawa met Wang and expressed hopes for security dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing "in the near

The two diplomats also discussed the challenges posed by China's ban on Japanese seafood that has impacted Japanese exporters.

Kamikawa who met Wang for the first time said their meeting was "extremely meaningful."

Wang said China and Japan should reaffirm that they "are cooperative partners rather than threats to each other, and they should be committed to peaceful development."

Wang also stressed the need for both sides to ensure that they "do not pose a threat to one another" and respect "each other's legitimate concerns", according to China's Foreign Ministry.

Japan boosts military to counter China

mfi/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)