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South Korea, China and Japan resume trilateral meeting to revive cooperation

South Korea, China and Japan resume trilateral meeting to revive cooperation

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — China’s premier agreed Monday to revive trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan in the face of common challenges, but issued a veiled rebuke against the two countries’ expanded security cooperation with the United States.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with South Korean President Yeon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul in their first meeting for their countries. Tripartite meeting In more than four years.

Many experts say the mere fact that the annual high-level meeting of countries has resumed and agreed on the need to improve relations is a positive sign for cooperation between the three Northeast Asian neighbors, as they all face economic uncertainty caused by wars and instability around the world. But it is not known to what extent their cooperation will be significantly enhanced, as the three countries have a host of complex and protracted issues.

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Li said China wants to cooperate with South Korea and Japan on economic issues, especially on supply chains and resuming talks on a trilateral free trade agreement.

Yoon said the three leaders agreed to enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, establish safe supply chain networks and work together to address environmental, health and other common issues. Kishida said that the three countries share a great responsibility for regional peace and that Japan will chair the next round of the tripartite leaders’ meeting.

But despite the friendly atmosphere of the meeting, Lee at one point expressed China’s discomfort with moves by Japan and South Korea to strengthen their security partnership with the United States, which Beijing sees as an attempt to form a bloc to contain China.

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“We need to have sincere dialogues to better enhance trust and remove doubts. We should uphold the spirit of strategic independence and maintain our bilateral relations,” Lee said in remarks at the beginning of the meeting with Yoon and Kishida. “We need to strengthen multipolarity in the world and oppose the formation of blocs.” Or camps.

China is concerned about Japan’s plan to buy 400 American aircraft Long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles and permit repair and maintenance of U.S. warships in Japan in support of its operations in the Western Pacific. The expansion of military exercises between South Korea, the United States and Japan also sparked protests from China.

Tripartite meeting The matter was also briefly overshadowed by North Korea’s surprise notification to Japan of its plan to launch a satellite by early next week, in an apparent attempt to put its second spy satellite into orbit.

The United Nations prohibits the launch of any satellites by North Korea, and considers them convincing tests of the country’s long-range missile technology. North Korea has said it needs spy satellites to better monitor South Korea and the United States and enhance the precision attack capabilities of its missiles.

Yoon called for strict international action if North Korea goes ahead with the launch. Kishida urged North Korea to withdraw its satellite launch. But Lee did not mention the launch plan, as he made general comments on promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through a political solution.

South Korea, Japan and the United States have long urged China – North Korea’s main ally and economic pipeline – to use its influence to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions. But China is suspected of avoiding full implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea and sending secret aid shipments to its poor, socialist neighbor to survive and continue to act as a bulwark against US influence on the Korean Peninsula.

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In a bilateral meeting with Lee on Sunday, Yoon asked China to contribute to promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula, while speaking about North Korea’s nuclear program and its deep military ties with Russia.

After his meeting with Li on Sunday, Kishida also told reporters that he expressed serious concerns about the conditions in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and northwest China’s Xinjiang region. He said that Japan is closely monitoring developments related to Taiwan, which also has self-rule.

Kishida pointed to Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea, crackdowns on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, and human rights violations against minorities in Xinjiang. Last week, China also launched a major military exercise around Taiwan to show its anger at the inauguration of the island’s new president He refuses to accept her insistence Taiwan is part of China.

On Monday, Lee did not directly respond to foreign accusations against Chinese actions in the South China Sea or around Taiwan.

“China, Japan and South Korea should appropriately handle sensitive issues and points of contention, and take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Li said. “And build a truly authentic pluralism.”

Together, the three Asian countries represent about 25% of global GDP, and are closely linked to each other economically and culturally. But their relations suffered repeated setbacks over issues arising from Japanese wartime aggression. China’s ambitions for greater global influence and the US push to strengthen its Asian alliances also threaten to damage relations between the three Asian countries.

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The trilateral meeting between China, South Korea and Japan was supposed to be held annually after their first meeting in 2008. But the sessions have been suspended since the last meeting in December 2019 in 2019. Chengdu, China Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the often complex relations between the three countries.

Experts say that the three countries want better relations. China is the largest trading partner of both South Korea and Japan. Analysts say China likely believes that any further strengthening of security ties between South Korea, Japan and the United States would not serve its national interests.

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Wu reported from Bangkok. Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.