Trilateral talks open on Korea
Two-day working- and senior-level talks among South Korea, Japan and China kicked off on Monday, as the three nations prepare to resume their meeting this year, after a four-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chung Byung-won, South Korea’s deputy foreign minister, is set to meet with Takehiro Funakoshi and Nong Rong, his Japanese and Chinese counterparts, respectively, on Tuesday, following separate working-level meetings between Seoul and Tokyo, as well as Seoul and Beijing on Monday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin briefly met with the three senior diplomats on Monday, asking for their deeper cooperation to reopen the three-nation summit within this year.
As this year’s host, Korea is looking to build on fresh momentum for reviving the three-way exchange. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his support for holding the event at a meeting Saturday with the Korean prime minister -- the kind of backing Korea and Japan have wanted. Beijing had looked less enthusiastic about reopening the dialogue, which focuses on business ties.
That has to do in part with the fact that Seoul and Tokyo are increasingly getting closer than ever, presenting what Beijing sees as a united front on addressing security concerns in the region. Korea, Japan and the US said they will work together on challenges like North Korea’s nuclear threats at their unprecedented summit at Camp David in August. China says they encourage a “Cold War mentality.”
But hopes for firming up Seoul-Beijing ties are high. At the Saturday meeting, Xi said he will “seriously consider a visit” to South Korea. In response, South Korea’s presidential office has said it will lead efforts for such a trip by Xi, who last visited Korea in 2014.
The presidential office is pushing for the tour, in hopes it would defuse worries over what some see as foreign policies that potentially alienate China. Beijing suspects Seoul is supporting the US on issues like recognizing Taiwan, the self-ruled democratic island Washington supports. Korea says it resists changing the status quo by force on the island, which China calls its own, saying it could take it over if necessary.