South Korea, China, Japan to hold trilateral talks on May 26-27 in Seoul

The last meeting among the neighbors was held in 2019.
By Taejun Kang for RFA
2024.05.23
Taipei, Taiwan
South Korea, China, Japan to hold trilateral talks on May 26-27 in Seoul South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (L), Chinese Premier Li Qiang (C) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R).
Reuters

Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will meet on May 26-27 in Seoul for their first trilateral talks in more than four years, South Korea’s presidential office said on Thursday.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will have bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday, ahead of their three-way gathering on Monday, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, said.

The summit will cover six areas of cooperation: economy and trade, sustainable development, health issues, science and technology, disaster and safety management, and people-to-people exchanges, Kim said, adding that the leaders would issue a joint statement.

The leaders will also discuss regional and international issues and meet about 80 businesspeople at a dinner on Sunday and a business forum the next day, Kim said.

“The summit will serve as a turning point for fully restoring and normalizing the trilateral cooperation system among South Korea, Japan and China,” he added.

“It will also provide an opportunity to recover future-oriented and practical cooperation momentum that will allow the people of the three countries to feel the benefits.”

The neighbors held an inaugural stand-alone trilateral summit in 2008, and were supposed to meet annually after that. But the summit has been suspended since it was last held in December 2019, in China, because of bilateral feuds and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relations between all three have been fraught for various reasons over recent years.

South Korea and Japan are working to improve relations strained due to historical disputes stemming from Japan’s wartime aggression. They are also strengthening their trilateral security partnership with the United States amid growing rivalry between China and the U.S.

Japan, South Korea and the United States underscored their security cooperation against North Korean threats and reinforced their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” during an August 2023 Camp David summit.

In 2018, the year before the last summit between the three Asian neighbors, in the Chinese city of Chengdu, North Korea unexpectedly changed its aggressive stance toward the U.S. and South Korea. Seoul, in turn, eased its criticism of Pyongyang. 

Japan, however, continued to prioritize pressure on North Korea, causing disagreement with Seoul over North Korea policy. By the 2019 talks, the three neighbors could only agree on a general policy of cooperating on efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

China and South Korea have also clashed in recent years over a U.S. missile defense shield installed in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. and its allies for their “intimidation in the military sphere” of North Korea at a recent bilateral summit.

In March, Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution to extend a monitoring panel for enforcing North Korean sanctions, while China abstained, blocking U.S.-led efforts to control Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Edited by Mike Firn.

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