For­eign min­is­ters of 3 na­tions to meet

China, Ja­pan and South Korea will talk about co­op­er­a­tion, DPRK mis­sile tests

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington and ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing

When for­eign min­is­ters from China, Ja­pan and South Korea meet in Tokyo on Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, the mis­sile and nu­clear tests by the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea (DPRK) and the planned de­ploy­ment of a mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in South Korea should be at the top of the agenda, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

In an­nounc­ing the meet­ing on Mon­day, China’s For­eign Min­istry spokesman Lu Kang said that the three coun­tries have held a range of key meet­ings and events pro­mot­ing tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in all fields.

Co­op­er­a­tion ini­ti­ated 17 years ago has “played a con­struc­tive role” in boost­ing re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, Lu said.

The Ja­panese For­eign Min­istry said that For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida will host a din­ner for his Chi­nese and South Korean coun­ter­parts, Wang Yi and Yun Byung-se, on Tues­day, with an of­fi­cial tri­lat­eral meet­ing set for Wed­nes­day.

Ted Car­pen­ter, a se­nior fel­low at the Cato In­sti­tute, said the DPRK is­sue will likely dom­i­nate the talks, although China will cer­tainly bring up the THAAD (Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense) de­ploy­ment is­sue.

“The US will es­pe­cially be look­ing for progress on the North Korea is­sue,” he said, adding that ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes could be a source of dis­rup­tion in the talks. Ja­pan has mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with both China and South Korea.

DPRK has con­ducted sev­eral nu­clear and mis­sile tests and fir­ings this year, rais­ing con­cerns in the re­gion and the world.

Mean­while, the de­ci­sion in early July by South Korea and the US to de­ploy the THAAD mis­sile de­fense sys­tem in South Korea has an­gered China and Rus­sia. Both see it as a threat to their na­tional security and a scheme mas­ter­minded by the US.

Zhiqun Zhu, pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Buck­nell Univer­sity, be­lieves the most im­por­tant is­sues for the tri­lat­eral talks will be security and the econ­omy.

“For all three coun­tries, North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram is a com­mon chal­lenge,” he said. “They should nar­row their dif­fer­ences and find some com­mon ground on how to best ap­proach the North Korea chal­lenge.”

Zhu also said that the three coun­tries need to en­sure that po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences will not hin­der eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion. “They need to push for­ward the idea of a tri­lat­eral free trade agree­ment,” he said.

The US will es­pe­cially be look­ing for progress on the North Korea is­sue.” Ted Car­pen­ter, Cato In­sti­tute se­nior fel­low

The Korea Times ear­lier quoted South Korea Deputy Trade Min­is­ter Kim Hak-do as say­ing that the three coun­tries must co­op­er­ate to overcome the neg­a­tive im­pact from the Brexit.

The three coun­tries have held 10 rounds of FTA talks since ne­go­ti­a­tions started in 2012. Dur­ing the tri­lat­eral sum­mit be­tween Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang, South Korean Pres­i­dent Park and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Abe last Novem­ber, they agreed to speed up the talks and aim for a “com­pre­hen­sive, high­level and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial” agree­ment.

“It is a very dif­fi­cult time when China-Ja­pan and China-ROK re­la­tions are both tense,” Zhu said. “The min­is­te­rial talks are im­por­tant to help ease ten­sions and pave the way for sum­mit meet­ings dur­ing the G20.”

There has been no an­nounce­ment so far of any bi­lat­eral meet­ings at the up­com­ing G20 sum­mit in Hangzhou be­tween Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and South Korea Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye or Xi and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe.

Zhu noted that while a tri­lat­eral sum­mit by the end of the year is prob­a­bly not re­al­is­tic, bi­lat­eral sum­mits — es­pe­cially on the side­lines of an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence — should be pro­moted as a way to move the re­la­tion­ship for­ward.

Guo Yan­jun, deputy di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Asian Stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said the tim­ing of the an­nual min­is­ters’ meet­ing was “ideal” in light of the re­cent dif­fi­cul­ties.

“Their plan to sit at the same ta­ble again shows there’s a po­lit­i­cal will to im­prove ties,” Guo said.

The three sides “have tried their best to keep bi­lat­eral is­sues away from the tri­lat­eral agenda,” Guo added. “They are tak­ing a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. And fur­ther tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, in return, will be help­ful for re­solv­ing two-way is­sues.

Ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula flared up this week dur­ing the US and South Korea an­nual mil­i­tary ex­er­cise known as Ulchi Free­dom Guardian, in­volv­ing 25,000 US troops and 50,000 South Kore­ans.

On Mon­day, Pen­tagon spokesman Peter Cook de­scribed the drills as de­fen­sive in na­ture. “Of course, the rea­son we are do­ing those kinds of things is be­cause we see the kind of provoca­tive ac­tion the North Kore­ans have taken re­cently,” he told the daily press brief­ing.

DPRK has re­sponded strongly to the drills. The DPRK will “turn the strong­hold of provo­ca­tion into a heap of ashes through Korean-style pre-emp­tive nu­clear strike” if the US and South Korea “show the slight­est sign of ag­gres­sion” dur­ing the drills, a spokesman for North Korea’s mil­i­tary was quoted as say­ing by the coun­try’s state me­dia.

Wang Yi, min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs

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