South Korea hosts rare talks with Japan, China diplomats

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 26 2023 04:33 PM

SEOUL — South Korea was hosting a rare meeting on Tuesday with senior diplomats from Japan and China, the foreign ministry said.

The three-way talks are seen as an attempt to ease Beijing's concerns over Washington's deepening security ties with Tokyo and Seoul.

As the threat from nuclear-armed North Korea grows, South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol has pulled Seoul closer to long-standing ally Washington.

He has meanwhile sought to bury the hatchet with Japan, also a close US ally.

In August they said a "new chapter" of close three-way security cooperation was beginning after a historic summit at Camp David in the United States.

Beijing had lodged complaints over a statement released at the Camp David summit, in which the three allies criticized China's "aggressive behavior" in the South China Sea.

But Tuesday's meeting would explore potential cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing, and also consider the possibility of resuming long-stalled leaders' summits, South Korea's foreign ministry said.

The last such summit took place in 2019.

No other leaders' summit has since been held because of diplomatic and historical disputes between Seoul and Tokyo, in part linked to Japan's colonial rule over the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said cooperation among the three countries "plays a significant role not only in Northeast Asia but also in the peace, stability, and prosperity of the world," his ministry said in a statement before the meeting.

Park further highlighted that together, the three nations "account for 20 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the global GDP", it added.

Beijing, Seoul's biggest trading partner, is also North Korea's most important ally and economic benefactor.

While Tokyo, Seoul and Washington have held joint military exercises against the growing North Korean threats, Beijing has recently sent senior officials to attend Pyongyang's military parades.

China also claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, vowing to seize it one day, and officials in Washington -- a key ally of Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo -- have cited 2027 as a possible timeline for an invasion.

In April, South Korea's Yoon said that tensions over Taiwan were due to "attempts to change the status quo by force".

The comment resulted in a diplomatic tit-for-tat, with Beijing lodging a protest, which Seoul condemned as a "serious diplomatic discourtesy".

© Agence France-Presse