Top Diplomats Set to Meet to Discuss China, South Korea, Japan Summit

By Reuters 12 March 2015

SEOUL – The foreign ministers of South Korea, Japan and China are preparing to meet this month for their first talks in nearly three years in a bid to resolve tensions over Japan’s wartime past and discuss a trilateral summit.

Japanese media reported that the foreign ministers would likely meet in Seoul on March 21 and 22. South Korea said a ministers’ meeting is planned for this month, without confirming the dates.

“If the trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting is held soon, it will undoubtedly give us the opportunity to re-establish the groundwork for trust-building and common prosperity,” South Korea’s deputy foreign minister Lee Kyung-soo said.

Lee hosted a meeting of his counterparts in Seoul on Wednesday, saying their goal was to make “preparations for a successful foreign ministers’ meeting, upon which we may pave ways for the next step of trilateral cooperation.”

The last three-way summit took place in May 2012 in Beijing.

Japan’s ties with China remain frosty despite Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time last November on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Abe has yet to have a formal two-way summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, although they sat down with US President Barack Obama a year ago on the sidelines of a nuclear summit to discuss responses to North Korea’s military threats.

South Korea has accused Japan of trying to “undermine” an apology issued in 1993 to Asian women it forced to work as wartime sex slaves in Japanese brothels, known as “comfort women,” by conducting a review of it last year.

Both South Korea and China have been angered by visits by Japanese government ministers, including Abe, to the Yasukuni Shrine, which they see as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Ties have also been strained by territorial rows.

China and Japan claim ownership of a tiny group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku by Japan and the Diaoyu by China.

South Korea and Japan also have a separate dispute over islands that lie between their mainlands, called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.