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Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing to expedite preparations for trilateral summit

AFP . Seoul
26 Nov 2023 18:45:22 | Update: 26 Nov 2023 18:45:22
Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing to expedite preparations for trilateral summit
(L-R) Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo prior to the 10th trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in Busan on November 26, 2023 — AFP Photo

The top diplomats of South Korea, Japan and China on Sunday reaffirmed the need to hold a trilateral summit at the "earliest" possible time, Seoul's foreign minister said following their first three-way meeting in more than four years.

The foreign-minister-level meeting in the southern port city of Busan between Park Jin, Yoko Kamikawa and Wang Yi came as Beijing has been showing growing concern over Tokyo and Seoul's deepening security ties with Washington.

It also comes days after North Korea successfully placed its first military spy satellite into orbit, prompting the suspension of a five-year-old military accord between the two Koreas that was intended to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula.

"The three ministers reaffirmed ... to hold the summit, the pinnacle of the trilateral cooperation system, at the earliest, mutually convenient time," South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin told reporters following the talks.

"We agreed to expedite the necessary preparations," he added, without giving a specific time frame for the summit.

No leaders' summit has been held since 2019, in part due to diplomatic and historical disputes between South Korea and its former colonial ruler Japan.

Legal disputes over Japan's 1910-45 rule over the peninsula persist between the two countries.

On Thursday, a South Korean court ruling ordered Japan to compensate 16 women for forced sexual slavery during World War II, overturning a lower-court ruling that had dismissed the case.   

At a bilateral meeting with her South Korean counterpart ahead of the three-way talks, Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa called the ruling "extremely regrettable" and requested Seoul to take measures to correct the "violation of international law".

Beijing is Seoul's largest trading partner, but is also North Korea's main ally and economic benefactor.

At a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, South Korea's Park asked Beijing to play a "constructive role" in denuclearising the North, terming Pyongyang's latest satellite launch a serious threat to his country's national security.

Wang said China "has always played and will play a constructive role" in easing the situation in the region, a statement from Beijing's foreign ministry read.

With the increasing threat presented by the nuclear-armed North, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has moved to strengthen ties between Seoul and long-standing ally Washington.

He has also sought to bury the hatchet with Japan, another close US ally.