PHNOM PENH – Amid the conflicting claims between Japan on one side and China and South Korea on the other over islands in the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, leaders of the three countries checked in at the same hotel in Phnom Penh on Sunday after arriving to take part in a series of regional summits in the Cambodian capital.
While no bilateral talks have been arranged between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao or between Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on the sidelines of summits involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their dialogue partners, the three governments happened to book one of the best hotels in Phnom Penh for their leaders.
Given the tension between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands and between Japan and South Korea over Takeshima, the three leaders are not planning to hold a trilateral summit, which usually takes place on the sidelines of the annual ASEAN-related summits.
Journalists covering the summits are watching closely whether the three leaders will arrange to meet spontaneously at the hotel or the Peace Palace, the venue of a summit of ASEAN plus Japan, China and South Korea on Monday and the wider East Asia Summit on Tuesday, among other meetings they will attend.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China, Japan, and South Korea are expected to agree at the summit on the launch of three-way free-trade talks.
“I am optimistic the three parties can reach a consensus to commence the negotiations,” Qin told reporters in Phnom Penh.
Qin said trade ministers were likely to hold a trilateral meeting on the matter on the sidelines of the gathering.
“Hopefully we will have a positive announcement,” Qin said. “But I don’t have a timetable to offer for when the three countries complete the negotiations.”
Qin said for Sino-Japanese ties to improve, the “Japanese government has to choose take a right policy about China.”
“Particularly on those important issues relating to territorial sovereignty of China. Only by having good policies and handling these sensitive issues properly can we have better prospects of China-Japan relations,” he added.