Japan, China and South Korea are planning to hold a trilateral leaders summit in Tokyo around Dec. 19 to 20, a diplomatic source said Thursday, with all eyes on whether South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be able to make the trip amid mounting domestic pressure for her to resign.
The talks were originally planned for late this month or early next month, but the prolonged Diet deliberations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal have prompted a postponement until after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Dec. 15-16 visit to Japan, the source said.
Park, who would be making her first visit to Japan since taking office in 2013, is a suspect in a widening investigation into allegations that her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil influenced state affairs.
According to the source, the South Korean government has told the other parties of Park’s intention to attend, saying Seoul “will not let the domestic political turmoil influence diplomacy.”
The three countries now plan to hold a meeting of senior diplomats in Tokyo early next month to outline the topics for the summit, which are expected to include accelerating negotiations toward the conclusion of a three-way free trade pact and coordinating on counterterrorism, the source said.
Japan and China have held a series of working-level discussions to prepare for the talks, including between their defense forces, in the hopes of easing bilateral tensions over the East China Sea.
The two countries are set to hold talks involving their defense officials in Tokyo soon, aiming to start operation in the near future of a communication mechanism to avert accidental clashes in the waters and airspace of the East China Sea.
They are also planning to hold a high-level maritime cooperation conference in Hainan, southern China, early next month.
The efforts are expected to serve as part of preparations for Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s first trip to Japan.
The three countries have been taking turns to hold trilateral summits since 2008, although none took place in 2013 and 2014 amid a chill in Japan-China relations. Last year’s meeting was held in Seoul.