SEOUL – Senior officials from Japan, China and South Korea met here Thursday to discuss the possibility of holding a trilateral summit that hasn’t taken place for more than two years.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Lee Kyung-soo, South Korea’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs.
“The three countries’ cooperation seems to have become a major beacon to pave the way for future prosperity, not only for the region but also for the entire international community,” Sugiyama said at the outset of the meeting, indicating a sense of anticipation in arranging the summit.
The trilateral summit was held annually from 2008 to 2012. They planned to hold it in South Korea last year but postponed it after relations between Tokyo and Beijing soured after the Japanese government’s purchased most of the Senkaku Islands from a private Japanese owner in 2012. The uninhabited Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea are claimed by China and Taiwan.
Lee noted that South Korea has made efforts to break the deadlock.
“However, it is our grave concern that recent obstacles to the trilateral cooperation that have developed in the region has caused certain abnormality in its process, affecting the operation and the future about the mechanism,” Lee said in his opening remarks, according to Yonhap News Agency.
He expressed hope that the talks can help “reinvigorate the trilateral cooperation, which has been somewhat stagnant” and become “a turning point” for the future of this cooperative mechanism.
China’s Liu said that Beijing is prepared to cooperate with South Korea and Japan. However, from the standpoint of Japan’s effective nationalization of the Senkakus, known in China as Diaoyu and Taiwan as Tiaoyutai, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unwanted visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, China may be taking a cautious attitude toward a summit.
The three countries likely exchanged opinions on how to select the chairman for the summit and how to proceed with upcoming working-level talks.
The meeting was the first vice ministerial meeting to be held among the three countries since the last session in November in Seoul.