Little progress made . . .
Amid the diplomatic row between Japan and South Korea, China hosted the 8th China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit in Beijing on Wednesday. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Kono Taro and Kang Kyung-wha. The meeting was framed as an opportunity for China to play the role of mediator, potentially easing tensions between Seoul and Tokyo and facilitating a constructive discussion towards a solution. However, the two meetings ended with no progress on easing the Japan-Korea row. The three ministers did agree to accelerate trilateral FTA negotiations, and discussed regional security, touching on North Korea and Hong Kong issues. In the end, China made little effort to mediate; Kono and Kang met for a bilateral discussion afterwards, but they merely reiterated their previous positions and only agreed to keep the channels of communication open.
Romance of the three countries . . .
The three East Asian countries have been organizing these trilateral meetings since 2008. The meetings are largely focused on the regional economy, diplomatic relations, and disaster relief. The secretariat is based in Seoul, and China is the current secretary-general, which is rotated every two years. The meeting serves as an important forum for discussion for three countries that have complicated – and often tense – relations due to their history and security imperatives. The summit has also been the main forum for discussing the FTA between the three countries since 2012.
Next up, the fate of military information agreement . . .
The next key event to watch in this space is Seoul’s decision on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Tokyo, which expires on August 24. Seoul and Tokyo have been sharing military information under this agreement. And even after the exclusion of South Korea from Japan’s preferential white list, the two governments have exchanged information at least three times. Seoul has hinted that it will not extend the GSOMIA, attempting to leverage it against Tokyo and also Washington, which has a vested security interest in keeping it in place. Seoul announced after the Beijing meetings that South Korea will not make a decision on the extension of the GSOMIA until August 22, suggesting it will maintain the ‘strategic ambiguity’ to further pressure Tokyo.
- Bloomberg: China touts common ground with U.S. allies Japan, South Korea
- The Korea Herald: Wide gap remains after bilateral meeting of Kang and Kono
- Straits Times: China urges Japan, South Korea to resolve dispute through dialogue