South Korea, Japan, China to hold first trilateral summit since 2019

Agence France-Presse
South Korea, Japan, China to hold first trilateral summit since 2019
The national flags of Japan (L) and South Korea (R) flutter in the wind ahead of the arrival of South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol at Tokyo's Haneda Airport on March 16, 2023. Yoon was set to arrive in Tokyo for a summit aimed at boosting ties in the face of Pyongyang's growing aggression.
AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean, Chinese and Japanese leaders will hold their first trilateral summit in nearly five years next week in Seoul, South Korea's presidential office said Thursday.

President Yoon Suk Yeol will meet Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the South Korean capital Monday, Seoul's deputy national security director Kim Tae-hyo told reporters.

Yoon will hold separate bilateral talks with Li and Kishida on Sunday, Kim added.

The three leaders are also scheduled to attend a business summit and "encourage business people from the three countries", he said.

The upcoming summit "will serve as a turning point for fully restoring and normalising the trilateral cooperation system" between the three nations, Kim said.

The last time leaders of the three nations met was in 2019, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also because of diplomatic and historical disputes between South Korea and former colonial ruler Japan.

Legal disputes over Japan's 1910-45 rule over the Korean peninsula persist between the two countries.

But with the increasing threat posed by nuclear-armed Pyongyang, South Korea's Yoon has moved to bury the historical hatchet with Japan, while strengthening ties with long-standing ally Washington.

In August last year, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington announced a "new chapter" of close three-way security cooperation after a historic summit at Camp David in the United States.

At the time, Beijing lodged complaints over a statement released at the summit, in which the three allies criticised China's "aggressive behaviour" in the South China Sea.

Yoon last year said tensions over Taiwan were due to "attempts to change the status quo by force".

Thursday's announcement of the new trilateral summit came a day after Beijing reportedly summoned South Korean and Japanese diplomats to discuss "issues about Taiwan".

China condemned the attendance of a South Korean lawmaker and Seoul's representative to Taipei at Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te's inauguration on Monday, according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency.

Seoul's foreign ministry said Thursday that there is "no change" in South Korea's stance of "respecting the One China policy".

"Our government is also communicating with China on the Taiwan issue, and (we) think China is well aware of our government's position," Lim Soo-suk, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters.

China is South Korea's biggest trade partner, but it remains North Korea's most important economic benefactor and diplomatic ally.

Alongside Moscow, Beijing has obstructed US-led efforts at the UN Security Council to impose stricter sanctions on leader Kim Jong Un's government in response to its increased weapons tests.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim and China's top legislator hailed a "new chapter" of Beijing-Pyongyang relations, as the two countries celebrated 75 years of diplomatic ties.

The upcoming summit will mark Li's first visit to South Korea since taking office as China's premier in March 2023.

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