South Korea, China, Japan top diplomats seek to boost trilateral cooperation

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin (right) with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Busan, on Nov 26. - PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters): The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan meet in South Korea on Sunday, seeking to restart cooperation among the Asian neighbours and pave the way for a trilateral summit.

While China and the United States have been mending frayed ties, including a summit this month between Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, Beijing is concerned that Washington and its key regional allies are strengthening their three-way partnership.

Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul had agreed to hold summits every year starting in 2008 to bolster diplomatic and economic exchanges, but the plan has been blocked by bilateral rows and the Covid-19 pandemic. Their last trilateral leaders' meeting was in 2019.

The three top diplomats are gathering in the port city of Busan, also the first such meeting since 2019. In September, senior officials from the three countries agreed to arrange a trilateral summit at the "earliest convenient time".

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met separately on Sunday morning with his Japanese counterparts Yoko Kamikawa and China's Wang Yi.

Park and Kamikawa condemned North Korea's launch last week of its first spy satellite and agreed to boost responses to arms transactions between Pyongyang and Moscow, Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Marring the cooperative tone, Kamikawa called an order by a South Korean court for Japan to compensate a group of women forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels "extremely regrettable" and requested the South Korean government take appropriate measures, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

On Saturday, Kamikawa met Wang and expressed hopes for security dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing "in the near future". Wang highlighted the need for both sides to ensure that they "do not pose a threat to one another" and respect "each other's legitimate concerns", according to China's foreign ministry.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have taken steps to mend ties frayed by history and trade feuds, and held a historic trilateral summit in August with Biden.

Wang warned in July that U.S. efforts to strengthen relations with Seoul and Tokyo could raise regional tension and confrontation.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Additional reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard) - Reuters

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