The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea met in Tokyo on Aug. 24 — a significant move in light of the North Korean missile and nuclear development issue and continuing tension between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands. The parties need to make sure this paves the way for a meeting between the leaders of the three countries this year.
As if to mark the trilateral meeting, North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile the same day. Since the launch of the regime of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has sped up its development of missile technology. The country’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles is an issue that Japan, China and South Korean cannot leave unchecked.
During the meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se underscored the need for their countries and China to cooperate on the North Korean missile and nuclear development issue. Ahead of the talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed to reporters his country’s opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development.
At the same time, however, China has voiced its opposition to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system by the U.S. military in South Korea. China also expressed opposition to a U.N. statement condemning the launch of a missile by North Korea, showing that a gap between China’s ideas and the perceptions of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea remains.
China’s stance could end up unstitching the cohesion of international society. We would like China to understand that the deployment of the THAAD system is a measure responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
On Aug. 24, separate bilateral talks were also held between the foreign ministers of Japan and China, Japan and South Korea, and China and South Korea. Besides Japan and South Korea, which appear to be heading toward warmer ties, difficult issues appear to remain between the countries.
With regard to Japan and China, an abnormal situation remains, with official Chinese vessels repeatedly infiltrating Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. China apparently aims to break down Japan’s effective control of the islands. Its behavior can only be described as excessive and provocative. It is only natural that Kishida strongly protested to Wang over the issue.
During the talks between the Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers, China renewed its request for the withdrawal of the THAAD system. It appears that China is putting pressure on South Korea by toughening the conditions for issuing business visas. If that is the case, one cannot say it is acting as a responsible power.
At the same time, the three countries face common problems such as securing environmental safety and the safety of their nuclear power plants. In 2018, South Korea will hold the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, while Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Following that, Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Cooperation between each of the countries will be essential in ensuring that the three Olympic events are successful.
Multilateral diplomacy provides a forum for states that are at odds with each other to engage in dialogue naturally. If such dialogue continues, it can lead to an improvement in relations. That’s why talks between Japan, China and South Korea are important.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang stated, “There are various problems in the relations between the three countries, but they play important roles in maintaining peace and stability in the region.” This is a welcome statement.
Cooperating in crisis management in northeast Asia is beneficial for all of the countries involved. They should be aware of that.