By Sam Kim
China and Japan agreed with South Korea to push for a meeting among their top diplomats by the end of this year as the countries explored ways to repair ties marred by historical and territorial spats.
Diplomats from the three nations met in Seoul yesterday for the first high-level talks in 10 months and agreed to restore momentum for cooperation, the foreign ministry in Seoul said in an e-mailed statement. Its spokesman Noh Kwang Il said earlier at a briefing that his country would consult with China and Japan on reviving an annual three-way summit among their heads of state.
“It’s the right time for us to revitalize this cooperation, building trust and removing stumbling blocks,” South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se separately told deputy foreign ministers from China and Japan, Liu Zhenmin and Shinsuke Sugiyama, who were in Seoul for the talks.
The three countries, which together account for more than two thirds of the Asia-Pacific economy, skipped their trilateral summit last year for the first time since 2008. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hasn’t met with Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office in December 2012 as tensions between their countries deepened over the sovereignty of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
“We shared the view that there are some necessities for all of us to overcome some of the challenges all of us three have been faced with,” Sugiyama told reporters after yesterday’s meeting in Seoul. Their meeting didn’t go beyond reaching a consensus that talks between their respective foreign ministers should follow and possibly between heads of state, he said.
Abe has been pushing for a meeting with Xi at a regional economic forum in Beijing in November. He met in March with South Korean President Park Geun Hye at a meeting organized by U.S. President Barack Obama at The Hague Nuclear Summit.
Abe raised the odds of a meeting with Xi when he stayed away from a Tokyo war shrine on the 69th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat on Aug. 15. Any visit by government officials riles China and South Korea, which view the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression as 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined there along with millions of war dead.
Xi and Park met in Seoul in July for a summit and expressed concern for Abe reinterpreting his country’s constitution to give the military a greater role. The two also shared the view that Japan was backtracking on its 1993 apology over wartime sexual slavery involving women from the region, according to Park’s office.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Kim in Seoul at [email protected]