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China, Japan and South Korea start first summit talks since 2019

Soo-Hyang Choi, Yoshiaki Nohara, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Leaders from China, Japan and South Korea started their first formal three-way summit since 2019 as part of efforts to improve their relations amid growing friction over trade and security issues.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol began their three-way talks Monday in Seoul. They are expected to deliver statements after the meeting and then have a session with business leaders. They met for bilateral discussions on Sunday.

While the three countries are geographically close, summits such as this are relatively rare. The leaders were supposed to convene annually but the meeting stalled for nearly five years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions. Since then, Tokyo and Seoul have improved bilateral ties and drawn closer to the U.S., worrying China.

The summit comes as Beijing has been pushing back against the tightening of U.S. chip export rules, part of a broader effort to hobble China’s chipmaking industry over national security concerns. Japan and South Korea are central to U.S. efforts to deny Beijing access to high-end chipmaking tools and technology.

Li told Yoon at their meeting Sunday that both sides should avoid turning economic issues into political issues, and Beijing welcomes South Korean firms including Samsung Electronics Co. to expand investment in China, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Yoon said he hopes both countries strengthen exchanges, according to a pool report.

Kishida’s talks with Li were a bit more pointed as he called on China to free detained Japanese nationals, and raised concern over China’s actions in the East China Sea, where ships from the two sail near disputed isles on an almost daily basis.

Tokyo and Seoul have also expressed concern about security in the Taiwan Strait, and Kishida said he brought up the subject in his talks with Li. Tensions in the region have risen as China held its most expansive military drills in a year around Taiwan last week, ramping up pressure on the island’s new president, Lai Ching-te, just days after he was sworn in.


Kishida and Yoon have stepped up security cooperation with Washington and last year met with President Joe Biden for an unprecedented summit. The Asian leaders may be heading to the U.S. again in the next few months, possibly to hold a summit with Biden that will build on their meeting last year, according to reports from Kyodo News and other media.

Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul will seek to cooperate in six main areas when they meet on Monday, including sustainable development, people-to-people exchanges as well as economy and trade. Japan and South Korea have also sought China’s help to rein in North Korea’s atomic ambitions.

Just before the formal summit, Japan said North Korean has given notice that it plans to launch a rocket to deploy a satellite. Japan, South Korea and the U.S. have said North Korea’s space program helps it develop ballistic missiles and the notice of a launch is set to focus attention on Pyongyang’s weapons program at the trilateral meeting.


(With assistance from Sam Kim.)

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