China, Japan, S.Korea cooperation serves common interests of all: FM
High-level officials from China, Japan and South Korea have carried out in-depth discussions on working for the steady resumption of trilateral cooperation and agreed to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting in the coming months, as well as maintain communication on holding a leaders’ meeting at the earliest opportunity convenient to all three countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin briefed on Tuesday.
According to the spokesperson, the meeting, held in Seoul on Tuesday, was attended by Nong Rong, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi, Japan’s senior deputy foreign minister, and Chung Byung-won, South Korean deputy foreign minister.
It was agreed that trilateral cooperation serves the common interests of the three parties and it’s necessary to work together to step up practical cooperation in such fields as culture and people-to-people exchanges, economy and trade, scientific and technological innovation, sustainable development and public health to make new progress in trilateral cooperation and make new contribution to regional peace, stability and prosperity, Wang said.
As the chair of the trilateral cooperation mechanism, South Korea proposed a trilateral summit in late December, Japanese broadcaster TBS reported.
Chinese analysts said that it is still too early to commit to an actual meeting of the leaders in the near future, and that South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and his government need to make practical efforts to mend ties with China that have bottomed out due to Seoul’s extreme pro-US foreign policy.
If conditions for a leaders’ meeting are achieved, and it could take place within this year, before South Korea’s legislative elections in April 2024 – a pivotal moment of reckoning for Yoon and a litmus test of the sitting president’s performance – it would be good news for Yoon, who faces slumping approval ratings, Wang Junsheng, a research fellow of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Yoon took an extremely pro-US foreign policy path immediately after he took the reins of the presidency in 2022, which has harmed ties with its largest trading partner China, weighing on the country’s domestic economy with mounting unemployment rates, especially among young professionals.
As polls consistently highlight the economy as the predominant concern of South Korean voters, Wang Junsheng said it is Yoon and his government that have the most urgent need now to revive the leaders’ meeting to repair ties with China, as such a remarkable event could save them from low approval ratings at home.
South Korean media reported that Yoon’s domestic appeal remains lukewarm at best. A recent Gallup poll pegs Yoon’s approval rating at a modest 34 percent.
Chinese Foreign Ministry has blasted the so-called historic US-Japan-South Korea summit at the US presidential retreat Camp David in August as a “deliberate attempt to sow discord” between the world’s second-largest economy and two of its Asian neighbors. Chinese analysts also said it could be a step toward creating a US-led “mini NATO” in the region that could force other regional countries to take more assertive actions.
Dong Xiangrong, a senior fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued that it is only wishful thinking on the South Korean side to think the closer Seoul gets to Washington, the more bargaining chips it could leverage in talks with Beijing, as China would in fact handle ties with South Korea mainly within the China-South Korea bilateral setting or within that of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral cooperation mechanism.
It is too early to promise an actual meeting of the leaders in the near future, as there should be ministerial-level talks to set tangible timetables and topics for discussion, and that would not be an easy process, Dong noted.
Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula issues at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, also warned that Yoon’s government must make practical redemption over its China policy, including correcting its “totally unacceptable” remarks over the Taiwan question, stop echoing the US to provoke China in the South China Sea, and withdrawing from the anti-China chip alliance, otherwise China would not agree to any further arrangements for a three-way meeting of leaders.
Featuring weapons ranging from ballistic missiles to tanks rolling through Seoul, South Korea put on the first large-scale military parade in a decade on Tuesday to mark its Armed Forces Day, usually a muted occasion in South Korea. More than 300 combat troops from the US Eighth Army, under US Forces Korea, took part in the parade as the South Korea and the US marked the 70th anniversary of their alliance, media reported.
Such a high-profile show of force on Tuesday would be a provocation and is likely to invite a tough response from North Korea, bringing new threats to the peace and stability of the peninsula, Lü said.
“Is it not self-contradictory that such a provocative move would cancel Seoul’s recent efforts to bring back a cooperative atmosphere in its neighborhood?” Lü said.