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Chinese, Korean finance chiefs skip out on ASEAN Plus Three

Kyodo

China and South Korea skipped a meeting of finance chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea on Friday in India, their officials said.

The ASEAN Plus Three meeting was to be the only opportunity for the finance chiefs of the three East Asian countries to meet on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting, which was to begin Saturday. Their trilateral meeting at the event was canceled amid signs of discord.

The governor of the People’s Bank of China also failed to show, Japanese Finance Ministry officials said.

A South Korean finance ministry official said the chief was absent because he was “busy” with domestic issues and “disappointed” he couldn’t attend the meeting.

The Chinese finance minister was not able to attend the gathering because of “a domestic meeting,” a Chinese bureaucrat said.

China’s finance chiefs were held out of the International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings in Tokyo in October after Tokyo infuriated Beijing last September by effectively nationalizing the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China claims them as Diaoyu and Taiwan calls them Tiaoyutai.

A former senior Japanese finance official who is in India to attend ADB-related events said the absence of the Chinese and South Korean finance chiefs from ASEAN Plus Three was “apparently because of a deterioration” in Japanese-Chinese and Japanese-South Korean relations.

The two nations’ vice finance chiefs attended the meeting instead.

Japanese ties with China and South Korea have worsened amid heightened tensions over territorial disputes. Recent visits by Japanese politicians and Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, to a war-related shrine in Tokyo fueled the friction.