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Heads of SKorea, China & Japan to Meet 05/23 06:05

   Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will meet next week in Seoul for 
their first trilateral talks in more than four years to discuss how to revive 
their cooperation, South Korea's presidential office said Thursday.

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will meet 
next week in Seoul for their first trilateral talks in more than four years to 
discuss how to revive their cooperation, South Korea's presidential office said 
Thursday.

   Since their inaugural stand-alone trilateral summit in 2008, the three 
countries' leaders were supposed to hold such a meeting every year. But the 
summit has been suspended since the last one in December 2019, in China, 
because of the COVID-19 pandemic and often complicated ties among the Asian 
neighbors.

   The trilateral meeting between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Chinese 
Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will take place in 
Seoul on Monday, Kim Tae-hyo, Seoul's deputy national security director, told a 
news conference.

   Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be attending.

   Li and Kishida were scheduled to arrive in South Korea on Sunday. They will 
meet Yoon bilaterally on Sunday afternoon before attending a welcoming dinner 
banquet with the South Korean president, Kim said.

   "This summit will be a turning point for Korea, Japan and China to 
completely restore and normalize three-way cooperation systems," Kim said.

   Kim said the three leaders were expected to discuss cooperation on six South 
Korea-proposed topics -- personnel exchanges, climate change, trade, health and 
aging population, technology and disasters. He said these discussions will be 
included in a joint statement after their summit.

   Kim said the three leaders will also discuss unspecified regional and 
international political issues and how to respond together to a global 
poly-crisis and contribute to international peace.

   Closely linked economically and culturally with one another, the three 
countries together account for about 25% of the global gross domestic product. 
But efforts to bolster trilateral cooperation often become snagged because of a 
mix of issues, including historical disputes stemming from Japan's wartime 
aggression and the strategic competition between China and the United States.

   South Korea and Japan are both key U.S. military allies, together hosting a 
total of 80,000 American troops on their territories. North Korea's advancing 
nuclear program and China's growing assertiveness in the region have forced 
South Korea and Japan to reinforce their trilateral security partnership with 
the United States. That has angered China and North Korea.

   Observers say the trilateral meeting comes as the three Asian nations share 
a need to improve ties. They say South Korea and Japan want to maintain good 
ties with China, their biggest trading partner, while Beijing also doesn't want 
to see a further strengthening of a Seoul-Tokyo-Washington security cooperation.

   "If the current situation continues, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will 
stick together further, forming a tool to check and contain China. In that 
sense, China can't help thinking that advancing ties with South Korea and Japan 
will better serve its national interests," said Kim Yeol Soo, an analyst with 
South Korea's Korea Institute for Military Affairs.

   Paik Wooyeal, a professor at Seoul's Yonsei University, said South Korea and 
Japan would find it easier to deal with China in a trilateral structure rather 
than bilaterally.

   Ties between South Korea and Japan had fluctuated severely due to issues 
originating from Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. But 
their relations warmed significantly since 2023 as the two countries took a 
series of major steps to move beyond that history and boost cooperation in the 
face of shared challenges like North Korea's nuclear ambitions and supply chain 
vulnerabilities.

   South Korea, Japan and the U.S. want China, North Korea's major ally and 
biggest source of aid, to use its leverage to convince North Korea to abandon 
its nuclear program.

   China doesn't officially support North Korea's nuclear program, but it's 
suspected of avoiding fully enforcing United Nations sanctions on North Korea 
and shipping covert assistance to help its impoverished socialist neighbor stay 
afloat. Experts say China thinks North Korea serving as a bulwark against U.S. 
influences on the Korean Peninsula will serve its strategic interests.

 
 
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