In an effort to ease tensions and enhance cooperation, China, Japan, and South Korea have agreed to restart diplomatic and economic exchanges and work toward organizing a summit. Despite China's attempts to mend relations with the United States, Beijing is concerned about the strengthening partnership between Washington and its key regional allies.
Previously, Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo had agreed to hold annual summits starting in 2008 to promote diplomatic and economic ties. However, disputes between individual pairs of countries and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this plan, with the three leaders last meeting collectively in 2019.
The foreign ministers of these three nations recently convened in the South Korean port city of Busan for their first such meeting since 2019. This meeting follows an agreement reached in September to schedule a trilateral summit at the "earliest convenient time."
While a specific timeframe for the summit was not provided, South Korea's national security adviser, Cho Tae-yong, expressed confidence that Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol would meet in the near future, even if it might not happen this year.
During their 100-minute discussion, the ministers agreed to advance cooperation in six key areas, including security, economy, and technology. They also pledged to engage in substantive discussions to prepare for the upcoming summit.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin stressed the importance of institutionalizing trilateral cooperation to create a stable and sustainable framework. China's Wang Yi urged the three nations to resist ideological divisions and refrain from aligning regional cooperation with specific camps, a message aimed at Seoul and Tokyo's alliance with Washington.
Wang also called for a prompt resumption of negotiations on a trilateral free trade agreement. Japan's Yoko Kamikawa emphasized that increased trilateral cooperation would contribute to regional peace, especially in light of the increasingly complex international security situation.
In separate bilateral discussions, the ministers condemned North Korea's recent launch of its first spy satellite and discussed enhancing responses to arms deals between Pyongyang and Moscow.
However, Kamikawa expressed regret over a South Korean court's order for Japan to compensate women forced to work in wartime brothels. She called on Seoul to take appropriate measures in response.
Park invited Wang to visit Seoul, and they agreed to reinforce strategic communications. Park also asked China to play a constructive role in encouraging North Korea to pursue denuclearization.
Despite these cooperative efforts, Wang cautioned against politicizing economic and technology issues, alluding to China-U.S. tensions over trade disputes.
Kamikawa and Wang discussed the need for a security dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing in the near future. Wang emphasized the importance of mutual respect and ensuring that neither country poses a threat to the other.
South Korean President Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida have been working to improve relations, marked by a historic three-way summit with President Biden in August. However, Wang had previously warned that U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Seoul and Tokyo could increase regional tensions and confrontations.