• Kyodo, Reuters


China will host a trilateral summit with Japan and South Korea on Dec. 24 in the country’s southern city of Chengdu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, with ties between Tokyo and Seoul remaining strained over trade and security issues as well as compensation for wartime forced labor.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are scheduled to meet, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.

The three are likely to exchange views on regional security matters, as North Korea continues provocations such as test-firings of what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles amid stalled denuclearization negotiations with the United States.

Abe has announced that he is planning to visit China for three days from Dec. 23. During the visit, he is expected to have bilateral talks with Moon on Dec. 24, a diplomatic source said. The Japanese and South Korean leaders have not held a formal summit in over a year, apart from a short conversation in early November on the fringes of a multilateral gathering in Thailand. Abe is also likely to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, head of the Communist Party, in Beijing before traveling to Chengdu, and hold separate talks with Li, the source added.

The trilateral summit, held annually on a rotating basis by the three nations, has occasionally been suspended due to issues in Japan’s relations with its two neighbors over historical and territorial disputes as well as political turmoil in South Korea.

Late last month, Japan and South Korea averted the termination of a military intelligence-sharing pact as Seoul chose at the last minute to hold off on its earlier decision to scrap the agreement.

All eyes are on whether Abe and Moon can set the stage for repairing ties, more than a year after South Korean courts ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

In a Tuesday briefing in Seoul, Moon’s spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said that the leaders would review the recent situation on the Korean peninsula and discuss ways to boost three-way cooperation to achieve denuclearization and permanent peace.

Moon would seek to consult Xi on the recent developments as South Korea sees China as instrumental in reviving the nuclear talks, due to its status as a longtime ally of North Korea, officials in Seoul said.

“We’re watching very carefully various related circumstances that are happening between North Korea and the United States, and we’re very cautious to forejudge anything and predict the future,” an official at Moon’s office told reporters.

The Chinese and Japanese leaders are certain to discuss Xi’s planned visit as a state guest to Japan next spring.

Some Japanese conservative lawmakers, however, have called on Abe not to invite Xi to Japan, as political unrest in Hong Kong has continued unabated and Beijing has shown no sign of acceding to demands by pro-democracy protesters.

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