China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are working together on setting up their annual trilateral foreign ministers meeting, the Foreign Ministry said on Aug 18.
The occasion would pave the way for an annual trilateral leaders meeting later this year.
In response to speculation that Foreign Minister Wang Yi might also engage in bilateral meetings in Japan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the upcoming gathering will be “a routine multilateral meeting and will not involve bilateral visits”.
The last foreign ministers meeting, in March last year, signified a thaw in a chill that had deadlocked trilateral relations since 2012, but new issues have emerged, including Seoul’s plan to deploy the United States’ controversial THAAD anti-missile system and Japan’s interference in the South China Sea issue.
Japan has the rotating chairmanship for the trilateral cooperation meetings this year, and Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported on Aug 17 that the foreign ministers meeting is planned in Tokyo for Aug 23 and 24 -17 months after the last foreign ministers meeting.
In response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson’s Office said: “China attaches importance to China-Japan-ROK cooperation and hopes the trilateral high-level meeting will be held successfully.
“All of the parties should make joint efforts for this, meet halfway, and create an ideal atmosphere for the meeting.”
Liu Qing, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said the meeting would be an opportunity for the three countries to improve their cooperation, and it is time for them to continue communicating, “boost trust and minimize mutual doubts”. Wang Junsheng, an Asia-Pacific studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the ROK’s planned deployment of the THAAD missile system would threaten China’s interests and “add complexity to the diplomatic processes in Northeast Asia”.