While Japan, China and South Korea are neighbors in East Asia, Japan’s ties with these nations have not been smooth because of such factors as Japan’s wartime behavior in the 1930s and ’40s and territorial rows over the Senkaku islets with China, and the Takeshima islets with South Korea. In a welcome move, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak held a summit in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Saturday.

The latest summit was meaningful since it represented the first trilateral summit of this type. Japan, China and South Korea account for 75 percent of East Asia’s gross domestic product and about 17 percent of the world’s GDP. The summit will be held every year. In the past the three nations had held summits on the sidelines of international conferences related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The three leaders said in their joint statement that the summit opened a new era in cooperative relations and would lead to peace and development in the region. To prevent this statement from becoming empty words, the three nations need to act considerately toward each other by upholding the five principles mentioned — openness, transparency, mutual trust, common benefits and respect of diverse cultures. In this sense, it is regrettable that on Dec. 8 two Chinese survey ships remained within Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku islets for over nine hours.

The three leaders agreed not only to increase currency swaps to help South Korea secure enough foreign currency as the won’s value nosedives against both the yen and the dollar, but also to expedite the Chiang Mai Initiative designed to enhance currency swaps among ASEAN member nations, Japan, China and South Korea. They also agreed to work toward an early conclusion of world trade negotiations and to strengthen cooperation to denuclearize North Korea. The three nations should make every effort to make the annual summit a chance to deepen trilateral cooperation to better deal with real issues.

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