China, Japan and South Korea to Hold Their First Summit Since 2019

China, Japan and South Korea are set to hold their first summit in more than four years, with a gathering in Seoul next week for talks that offer the neighbors a chance to manage their relations amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Bloomberg
First Published24 May 2024
China, Japan and South Korea to Hold Their First Summit Since 2019
China, Japan and South Korea to Hold Their First Summit Since 2019

China, Japan and South Korea are set to hold their first summit in more than four years, with a gathering in Seoul next week for talks that offer the neighbors a chance to manage their relations amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing. 

Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will attend the summit on Sunday and Monday, an official for Yoon’s office said Thursday. 

Bilateral discussions will take place on Sunday and the summit is planned to cover six areas of cooperation that include sustainable development, people-to-people exchanges as well as economy and trade, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters. Kim added the summit would serve as a turning point for fully restoring a three-way cooperation system. 

The trilateral summits have been on hold since 2019 due to the pandemic and China’s anger at Japan and South Korea moving closer to Washington in recent years. The US and its two key allies in Asia have raised their security cooperation to some of the highest levels in decades, largely on concerns about North Korea’s behavior and China becoming more assertive militarily.

The meeting will take place against the backdrop of an intensifying US-China rivalry for semiconductor supremacy. Washington has imposed a wall of restrictions to deny Beijing access to the latest semiconductors and sophisticated equipment needed to make the most advanced chips. 

China will likely try to push Japan and South Korea not to join US-led efforts in further restricting exports of advanced chipmaking equipment, after Tokyo imposed export controls last year. Japan has been resisting US pressure to further curb sales to China. The Biden administration is also trying to bring South Korea into the agreement that includes Japan and the Netherlands.

“Against the backdrop of complex and evolving international and regional situations, China looks forward to this meeting injecting new momentum into trilateral cooperation and better achieving mutual benefit and win-win outcomes among the three countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing Thursday in Beijing.

The summit highlights the difficult balancing act faced by South Korea and Japan, which both had China as their biggest trading partner last year. Both also have a security alliance with the US, which stations tens of thousands of troops in the two countries and has stepped up military training with the two. 

Economic and trade ties, which have been the bedrock of regional relations, appear to be weakening. While Japan is still the single most important source of investment for China, the speed of investment has slowed. New investment fell for a second year in 2023, and total new money into China and Hong Kong was less than a tenth of the spending in the US, according to government data.

The same is true for South Korean firms. Investment into China last year was the lowest in 20 years, while Korean companies continued to pour money into the US to take advantage of subsidies for high-tech investment. 

The upcoming trilateral summit will be a first major diplomatic test for Yoon as he tries to maintain the momentum for the remaining three years of his term after suffering a major defeat in parliamentary elections last month.

Yoon and Kishida may be heading to the US in the next few months, possibly to hold a summit with President Joe Biden that will build on an unprecedented security meeting the three had about a year ago, according to reports from Kyodo News of Japan and other media.

Read more: Five Takeaways From the US, Japan and South Korea Summit

Their meeting last year at the Camp David presidential retreat in rural Maryland included practical steps such as real-time data sharing to counter threats by North Korea, measures to de-risk global supply chains from exposure to China and moves to bind the trilateral relationship so tightly that it would be hard to unravel.

Apart from security, China’s import ban on Japanese seafood and the detentions of Japanese citizens have soured ties between the two nations. The ban, prompted by a release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, has continued despite ongoing protests from Japan.

South Korea, Japan and the US in turn are keen for Beijing to use its influence on Pyongyang to rein in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions. China has been North Korea’s biggest benefactor for years, providing a lifeline that has kept its economy afloat.

Kim’s regime has stated it has no intention of relinquishing a nuclear arsenal it says protects it from a US invasion, calling American offers for talks hypocrisy “too shameless to blind the world people,” its official Korean Central News Agency reported this month. 

With assistance from Shinhye Kang, Seyoon Kim and Charlie Zhu.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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