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Editorial: Trilateral summit sets in motion the restoration of ties, but more work remains

  • 2015-11-02 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: November 2, 2015 – p. 5)


 At the trilateral summit among Japan, China, and South Korea convened in Seoul for the first time in about three and a half years, the nations’ leaders agreed to work together to strengthen three-way cooperation. While showing restraint on history issues and security, they pledged to deepen their partnership on cross-border issues, such as the economy and the environment.


 In the joint declaration issued after the trilateral summit, the leaders of Japan, China, and South Korea announced that the three nations would hold trilateral summits on a regular basis and that Tokyo would host the meeting next year. This can be seen as creating the momentum and framework to restore and further improve relations.


 This was the first time for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang since the PM delivered his August statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The three leaders agreed that their countries would address issues properly "in the spirit of facing history squarely and advancing toward the future.”


 At the joint press conference held after the talks, Chinese Premier Li kept Japan in check, saying that cooperation can occur only if countries take steps to address sensitive issues such as history. Views on how to address issues by “facing history squarely” will naturally differ from country to country.


 The security situation in East Asia is growing increasingly complex with Japan’s passage of new security-related legislation; China’s activities in the South China Sea and the patrolling of the area by a U.S. warship; and the [possible deployment of] a terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missile defense system [now under discussion] between the United States and South Korea.


 The three leaders should repeatedly confirm their understanding so as to not invite any further deterioration of ties due to history issues. Persistent initiatives that include security are required in bilateral dialogues going forward.


 At the trilateral summit, the leaders agreed to endeavor to accelerate negotiations on a Japan-China-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The total gross domestic product (GDP) of the three nations accounts for about 20 percent of global GDP.


 China and South Korea are not participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and some think that China and South Korea are under pressure to promote an economic partnership with Japan now that a [basic] agreement on the TPP has been reached. Separate from the TPP, however, China is working to create an international economic framework under its leadership; so it is unclear whether the FTA talks will proceed smoothly.


 The three nations also reaffirmed their commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea and agreed to work toward the resumption of the six-party talks, but the joint declaration stopped short of issuing a strong call to North Korea to halt its nuclear development program. It is thought that this reflects attempts to improve relations with North Korea, including China’s dispatch of a senior Chinese Community Party official to North Korea in October.


 Japan is separated from China and South Korea by only a narrow strip of water, and there are many environment and disaster preparedness issues on which the three countries should cooperate, including air pollution and windstorm and flood damage. With the depreciation of the yen recently, the number of Chinese and South Korean tourists visiting Japan has been increasing. The trilateral summit must be leveraged to further energize meetings at the ministerial level.

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