1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

South Korea, China and Japan make plans for rare summit

September 26, 2023

Diplomats from Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo have met to explore restarting regular three-way summits to foster regional cooperation. The initiative has been on hold for the past few years.

Japan's Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Funakoshi Takehiro, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won and China's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nong Rong
The meeting was attended by deputy foreign ministers from the three nationsImage: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

South Korean, Chinese and Japanese senior diplomats agreed on Tuesday that their national leaders should meet at the "earliest convenient time," Seoul's Foreign Ministry said after a rare meeting.

The sides are seeking to reboot trilateral exchanges after regular annual meetings were put on hold because of strained relations and the COVID-19 pandemic.

What has been agreed?

The Foreign Ministry of South Korea, which hosted the exploratory talks, said in a statement that specific dates for the leader talks remained under discussion.

Seoul has proposed that the summit should take place in late December. However, the ministry said the three countries' top diplomats would initially meet "in a couple of months."

Tuesday's meeting was attended by Japan's Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Funakoshi Takehiro, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won and China's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nong Rong.

What do the parties have to gain?

The trilateral meetings are partly intended to ease Chinese concerns about tighter relations between Japan and South Korea, who both agreed to end bilateral economic, legal and trade disputes.

Those disagreements stemmed from Japan's 1910 to 1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, which has long soured relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

US, Japan, South Korea hold historic first joint summit

For Beijing, the meeting represents a chance to leverage trade ties, counter the strengthening of US ties with its two allies and strengthen communication on security and defense matters.

For Japan and South Korea, there is the prospect of avoiding conflicts and maintaining a stable security relationship with China. They are also seeking Chinese help in slowing down and possibly stopping North Korea's nuclear development program.

The last summit was in 2019. The three countries had planned to hold a summit every year starting in 2008, but diplomatic issues and the pandemic got in the way.

What China, Japan, South Korea said

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the three countries would "work together to strengthen practical cooperation... and make new contributions to regional peace, stability and prosperity."

"We unanimously believe that carrying out cooperation is in the common interests of the three parties," he said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said there was a shared need to restart summits "as soon as possible."

"I believe it is very valuable to discuss the various challenges the region faces," she told a briefing in Tokyo.

A senior South Korean official told the Reuters news agency that China had been proactive in seeking three-way cooperation, particularly since Seoul's bilateral ties with Beijing soured over the deployment of a US THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea in 2017.

"I'm sure there should be some discomfort on their side regarding our increasingly close trilateral security partnerships with the United States and Japan," the official was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity.

rc/fb (AFP, Reuters)