Leaders of China, Japan, South Korea seeking to meet by year-end

China, Japan and South Korea are seeking to hold by year-end their first trilateral summit in about four years, a top envoy said Tuesday.

The South Korean ambassador to the United States, Cho Hyun Dong, said at a think tank event in Washington that his country, the current chair of the three-way framework, is making every effort to realize the plan.

Cho said the reaction from Tokyo is “always positive” while Beijing too has been “quite forthcoming,” adding that South Korea is looking forward to hosting a trilateral meeting at some point in the near future.

The last time the three countries held such a summit was December 2019. The hiatus was largely due to a low ebb in relations between Japan and South Korea over wartime issues, but the two have made dramatic progress in mending ties this year and held a three-way summit with the United States in mid-August near Washington.

In recent years, the coronavirus pandemic has also hindered engagements between China, Japan and South Korea. The three had agreed in 2008 to hold summits on an annual basis.

Past summits have focused on economic cooperation, such as an envisaged free trade deal among them, rather than hot-button political issues, and China has been represented by its premier instead of its president.

The revelation by the South Korean envoy comes at a time of heightened tensions between Japan and China after Tokyo went ahead with its decision to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

China has reacted sharply to the discharge that began Thursday, banning all imports of seafood products from Japan.

Also, countless nuisance phone calls from China and other acts of harassment against Japanese nationals have been reported since then, although the release was approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency and many countries as aligning with global safety standards.

At the event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the South Korean envoy also addressed China’s reaction to South Korea and Japan deepening their cooperation with the United States.

“To me, their reaction is more rhetoric than substantive,” Cho said. “My personal feeling is their reaction is quite reserved.”

His remarks were made in the presence of Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Koji Tomita, and Kurt Campbell, coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, as they came together to review the recent three-way summit at Camp David.

At the U.S. presidential retreat, the leaders agreed to meet at least once a year, as well as boost security and all kinds of cooperation in the midst of China’s rise and the growing missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Tomita said, “Although we have sent a very clear message about some aspects of Chinese behaviors which we found troubling…we also have made it very clear that we will continue to work to find a constructive and stable” relationship with China.

On the incidents of harassment after Japan started releasing the treated radioactive water, such as Japanese schools in China being pelted with rocks and eggs, Tomita said he hopes the Fukushima issue will not stand in the way of efforts to stabilize bilateral ties.

“We want to see more responsible action taken by the Chinese government,” he added.

Campbell said he believes the United States, Japan and South Korea are more aligned with respect to how they see the challenges following their first standalone summit at Camp David.

“The challenges that Russia presents to Ukraine, the provocations of North Korea and the desire to have a steady predictable relationship with China, but also concern about increasing provocations and uncertainty emanating from Beijing,” he said, citing some of them.

By Source KYODO