China, Japan, South Korea agree to revive summit at ‘earliest convenient time’

The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will soon meet and a long-stalled summit will resume at the “earliest convenient time”, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said an agreement to revive the three-way summit – which has been suspended since 2019 – was reached during talks between senior officials in Seoul earlier in the day.

Nong Rong, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, and his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Chung Byung-won and Takehiro Funakoshi, attended the meeting.

(From left) Takehiro Funakoshi, Chung Byung-won and Nong Rong shake hands before the talks. Photo: AFP

“The three sides held in-depth discussions on promoting the steady relaunch of China-Japan-South Korea cooperation, and agreed that the development of three-way cooperation is in the common interests of the three sides,” Wang told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

He did not say when the countries’ foreign ministers would meet or when a leaders’ summit would be held.

Wang said the three sides had agreed to strengthen people-to-people exchanges, and cooperation on the economy and trade, as well as science, technology and innovation, sustainable development, and public health.

The first trilateral summit was held in 2008 but it has been suspended since the coronavirus pandemic began and amid strained ties between the neighbouring countries.

At the last such gathering, in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, leaders of the three countries called for closer communication, cooperation on trade and promotion, and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Ties between Japan and South Korea have improved since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May last year.

The US is concerned that a strained relationship between its two allies may complicate its diplomacy in Asia. Beijing, meanwhile, is worried about Washington’s close alliance with Tokyo and Seoul, which it sees as a Nato-like mechanism in Asia.

US President Joe Biden, Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met at Camp David last month, jointly condemning China for its “dangerous and aggressive behaviour” in the South China Sea.
Relations between Beijing and Tokyo also hit a low point in late August when Japan began releasing treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, a plan that China strongly opposed.

Yonhap reported on Tuesday that South Korea – the rotating chair of the next leaders’ summit – had proposed holding the foreign ministers’ meeting in its southeastern port city of Busan. The report also said the three sides did not discuss Japan’s Fukushima water discharge or issues related to Taiwan at the meeting held in Seoul on Tuesday.

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