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Korea wants trilateral summit with China, Japan by year’s end

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From left, Funakoshi Takehiro, Japanese senior deputy foreign minister, Chung Byung-won, Korea's deputy foreign minister and Nong Rong, China's assistant minister of foreign affairs, shake hands at their meeting at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Tuesday. [MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS]
From left, Funakoshi Takehiro, Japanese senior deputy foreign minister, Chung Byung-won, Korea’s deputy foreign minister and Nong Rong, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, shake hands at their meeting at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul on Tuesday. [MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS]

Korea wants to host a trilateral summit with China and Japan before the end of this year, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said Tuesday.

“As the chair country of the trilateral summit this time, Korea has been trying to host the summit within the year,” the official told reporters. “This is something we will continue to discuss with our counterparts in Japan and China.”

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Chung Byung-won, Korea’s deputy foreign minister, Funakoshi Takehiro, Japan’s senior deputy foreign minister, and Nong Rong, China’s assistant foreign minister, met in Seoul earlier Tuesday to discuss details for a long-stalled trilateral leaders’ summit in Seoul. 

 
The three officials agreed the summit should be organized “at the earliest convenient time,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

The regular trilateral summit, first held in 2008 in Fukuoka, Japan, and last held in 2019 in Chengdu, China, was halted over the Covid-19 pandemic and tensions between Korea and Japan over historical and economic disagreements.

A trilateral foreign ministerial meeting will be held in Busan within the next few months, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The potential summit between President Yoon Suk Yeol, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang will focus on key areas for cooperation including people-to-people exchanges, science and technology and digitalization, climate change and sustainable development, health and welfare including aging populations, trade, and peace and security, according to the ministry.

“For instance, the three leaders may discuss cooperation on reducing fine dust pollution as an area of cooperation on combating climate change,” said the high-ranking official of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

The trilateral discussion on peace and security would include denuclearization of North Korea, the official added.

Japan’s continued release of treated radioactive water from its ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant was not part of the trilateral discussion Tuesday, according to the Foreign Ministry, nor were recent reports of a weapons deal between North Korea and Russia.

Funakoshi, Nong and Chung held bilateral meetings in Seoul on Monday, prior to their meeting with Foreign Minister Park Jin.

Park highlighted the fact that all three countries will serve as UN Security Council members next year and how closer trilateral cooperation is imperative for “peace, stability, and prosperity in the Northeast Asian region and beyond.”

Japan joined the council as a nonpermanent member earlier this year and Korea will be joining from Jan. 1 next year.

China, a permanent member on the council with veto power, has been criticized by the U.S. and other permanent members on the council for joining Russia to veto a U.S-drafted resolution to strengthen sanctions on North Korea for its military activity last year.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]