National / Politics

Japan to host China and South Korea for summit with North Korea likely topping agenda

Kyodo

Japan will host a trilateral summit with China and South Korea on Wednesday, to be held after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, with the leaders expected to focus on the denuclearization of North Korea.

The gathering will bring together Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in to talk about how to strengthen their cooperation in prodding Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, Japanese officials said.

The trilateral summit — the seventh of its kind — will follow the landmark meeting between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un late last month and come ahead of the first-ever U.S.-North Korean summit between President Donald Trump and Kim expected in the coming weeks.

The three countries have been hosting the annual gatherings in turn since 2008, but they were occasionally postponed due to a chill in Japan’s relations with its two neighbors over history and territorial disputes as well as political turmoil in South Korea.

The leaders of the three Asian powers, which together account for around 20 percent of the global economy, are also expected to discuss the issue of free trade, with a three-way free trade agreement likely to be on the agenda, according to the officials.

Abe, Li and Moon will also likely talk about how to promote people-to-people and cultural exchanges linked to the Olympic Games. South Korea hosted the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February, and Japan and China are scheduled to host the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, respectively.

Wrapping up their one-day gathering in Tokyo, the three leaders are planning to issue a joint statement, according to a Japanese government source.

Abe will hold one-on-one talks with Li and Moon on the sidelines of the three-way summit in an attempt to improve bilateral ties despite differing views over history and territories.

Li arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday evening, marking his first visit to Japan since assuming his current post in 2013.

Following Li’s Japan trip, Abe seeks to fly to China later this year and realize a reciprocal visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping.

Moon is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday morning for the first time since taking office in May 2017.

Li’s Japan travel is the first by a Chinese premier in seven years, and Moon will be the first South Korean president to set foot on Japanese soil in around the same period of time.

Li and Moon are also scheduled to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the trilateral summit, South Korea’s presidential office said Tuesday.

At the inter-Korean summit on April 27, Kim and Moon signed a joint declaration including an agreement to pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and strive to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

In the war, United Nations forces led by the United States fought alongside South Korea against the North, which was supported by China and the Soviet Union. Hostilities ceased with an armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953 by the U.S.-led U.N. Command, North Korea and China.

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