China, Japan and South Korea will hold their first trilateral meeting since 2012 this weekend.
It will be in Seoul starting at the end of October. The meeting comes as the East Asian nations deal with territorial and historical disputes, as well as economic ties.
Premier Li Keqiang will represent China at the summit. No explanation was offered for why the heads of state from Japan and South Korea will meet with Premier Li and not with Chinese head of state, President Xi Jinping.
Also, officials in Seoul say South Korean President Park Geun-hye will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 2. The two have met before at international events, but have not formally met since taking office.
Abe will be in Seoul November 1 and 2 for the trilateral meeting.
One Japanese newspaper suggested that Japan and South Korea are still negotiating over how to handle the highly disputed “comfort women” issue.
Park, who took office in 2013, had refused to hold a formal meeting with Abe. She had demanded that he offer a “sincere apology” and compensation to the thousands of Asian “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s military during World War II.
In August, Park said she would focus instead on Abe’s promise to uphold past Japanese apologies, including the 1993 Kono Statement. The statement offered apologies and remorse to comfort women.
Sides take part in first trilateral meeting since 2012
In 2008, the three major Northeast Asian leaders began to meet yearly, but after 2012 the summits were suspended because of territorial disputes.
China and Japan hold conflicting claims to uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The islands are called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Japan and South Korea have their own continuing dispute over two islets, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
The United States has been urging its two major military allies in Asia to reconcile to improve regional security coordination.
Japan strongly supports U.S. efforts to protect freedom of navigation in the Pacific and to counter China’s aggressive claims on the South China Sea.
South Korea has urged all sides to resolve their differences peacefully. Kim Heung-kyu is the director of the China Policy Institute at South Korea’s Ajou University. Kim says South Korea will likely avoid disputed issues during the meeting.
“In the conflict between the United States and China, South Korea prefers to play a role as a negotiator or proposer for stability, peace and cooperation rather than boosting the conflict by standing on one side,” Kim said.
North Korea expected to be discussed
North Korea is also expected to be an issue for discussion. South Korea and Japan both support the United States’ position that North Korea should halt its nuclear development program. The U.S. says halting the program should take place before new international talks to ease sanctions or increased economic assistance can begin.
However, China may support a more positive approach because of North Korea’s restraint in holding off on missile and nuclear tests.
South Korea and China have also voiced concerns over Japan’s recent security legislation. The legislation permits the military to protect Japanese interests and assist the U.S. in times of crisis. South Korea wants clarification that Japan still needs its permission to enter Korean territory.
Leaders will also likely discuss the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP agreement. Japan is one of the 12 member countries of the Pacific area free trade agreement.
South Korea has expressed interest in joining the TPP. China is not part of the group. The TPP is seen by some as a way to counter China's growing economic power.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Brian Padden reported this story from Seoul. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.
Words in This Story
trilateral – adj. involving three groups or countries
sincere – adj. having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way
uninhabited – adj. not lived in by people