South Korea, Japan, China to Hold First Trilateral Summit Since 2019

Trilateral Summit

South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese leaders are set to convene for their first trilateral summit in nearly five years next week in Seoul, as announced by South Korea’s presidential office on Thursday. Here are some details according to the report of The Philippine Star.

Summit Details

President Yoon Suk Yeol will host Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the South Korean capital on Monday, according to Deputy National Security Director Kim Tae-hyo. Ahead of the summit, Yoon will hold separate bilateral talks with both Li and Kishida on Sunday. The three leaders will attend a business summit to engage and encourage business leaders from their respective nations.

The upcoming summit aims to restore and normalize the trilateral cooperation system between the countries, serving as a significant turning point in their relations, Kim said. The last summit took place in 2019, with subsequent meetings hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic and diplomatic disputes, particularly between South Korea and Japan due to historical grievances from Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Despite ongoing legal disputes, President Yoon has prioritized strengthening ties with Japan amid increasing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea. This shift has also included bolstering the alliance with the United States. In August of last year, a historic summit at Camp David saw South Korea, Japan, and the United States announce a “new chapter” of trilateral security cooperation. However, this move faced criticism from Beijing over statements condemning China’s actions in the South China Sea.

The announcement of the new summit follows recent diplomatic tensions involving Taiwan. Beijing reportedly summoned South Korean and Japanese diplomats to discuss issues related to Taiwan, following the attendance of a South Korean lawmaker at Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration. China condemned the participation, but Seoul reiterated its commitment to the One China policy while maintaining open communication with Beijing on the Taiwan issue.

Strategic and Economic Context

China remains South Korea’s largest trading partner but also serves as North Korea’s primary economic supporter and diplomatic ally. Beijing, alongside Moscow, has resisted US-led efforts to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea in response to its escalating weapons tests. Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China’s top legislator celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, signaling strong bilateral ties.

The upcoming summit, marking Premier Li’s first visit to South Korea since taking office in March 2023, represents a crucial moment for diplomatic relations in East Asia. It is expected to address various regional security concerns, economic partnerships, and the stabilization of trilateral cooperation amidst global geopolitical shifts.

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