China, Japan premiers in Seoul for rare summit

Published May 27, 2024
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. — Reuters
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend the business summit at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on May 27, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. — Reuters

SEOUL: South Korean and Chinese leaders agreed on Sunday to start diplomatic and security dialogue and push a trade deal, when they met in Seoul ahead of a key trilateral summit with Japan.

There are low expectations of any major anno­uncements or breakthroughs at the trilateral meeting on Monday, but the leaders have expressed hopes it could help revitalise three-way diplomacy and ease regional tensions.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met Chinese Premier Li Qiang, who is making his first visit to South Korea since taking office in March 2023, and they agreed to establish a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume talks on a free trade deal.

“China and South Korea face significant common challenges of the international affairs,” Yoon said, pointing to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza as sources of increased uncertainty in the global economy. But with decades of solid ties behind them, he said he hoped the two countries “will continue to strengthen our cooperation amid today’s complex global crisis.” Li said Beijing wanted to work with Seoul to become “each other’s friendly neighbours who trust each other and partners who succeed together.”

The two leaders discussed North Korea, which has violated successive rounds of UN sanctions over its banned weapons programs, with Yoon telling Li he hoped China could be “a bastion of peace as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.” China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and a key diplomatic ally, and it has previously resisted condemning Pyongyang for its weapons tests, instead criticising joint US-South Korea drills for raising tension.

Yoon, Li and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will hold a trilateral meeting on Monday, the first such encounter since 2019, partly due to the pandemic but also to long-strained ties between South Korea and Japan.

Yoon, who took office in 2022, has sought to bury the historical hatchet with former colonial power Japan in the face of rising threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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