Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R), also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, attends the tenth trilateral foreign ministers' meeting between China, Japan and South Korea with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin (M) and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa (L) in Busan, South Korea, November 26, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]
By Farhad Chowdhury
The 10th China-Japan-ROK (the Republic of Korea) trilateral foreign ministers' meeting was held in ROK's Busan on November 26. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, attended the meeting. This is considered a crucial step toward reviving the trilateral cooperation mechanism, which has been on pause for four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trilateral discussions could boost economic cooperation between Northeast Asia's three largest nations and promote regional stability. Besides, the summit paves the way to resume a meeting of top leaders.
Since its establishment in 1999, the China-Japan-ROK trilateral cooperation mechanism has developed into a system that is based on leaders' meetings and is backed by more than 70 working-level mechanisms as well as a Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat located in Seoul.
However, after a four-year pause, this meeting is a positive indicator of purpose given China, Japan, and the ROK's intention of resuming regional diplomacy and strengthening ties. It is a rational move for China, Japan, and ROK to maintain regional peace and resolve differences and disputes through dialogue.
The trilateral summit shows enduring importance in promoting regional diplomacy, and regional cooperation between Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. China-Japan-ROK ties must progress steadily without the interference of an outside third party, and this will benefit all states and their people and promote regional peace and development. China, Japan and South Korea have become cooperation partners with highly integrated interests and highly interconnected production and supply chains. China is Japan's largest trading partner, and one of the largest investment destinations for Japanese companies. In 2022, China-ROK bilateral commerce hit $360 billion.
True implementation of the "Trilateral Cooperation Vision for the Next Decade" released during the 8th China-Japan-ROK Summit in December 2019 can help the three move forward with their regional diplomacy. A number of issues, including the discussions over the China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Zone, tackling population aging, and improving environmental protection cooperation, were resolved in agreement at the previous sessions of the leaders' summits between China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. These sessions demonstrated notable progress and a bright future for collaborative efforts.
This trilateral meeting would extend olive branches and work for regional peace, unity, and inclusivity. Despite geopolitical tensions in the region, it is true that China-Japan-ROK constructive engagement has significant effects on reducing regional tensions and boosting trade benefits for regional development.
China, Japan, and South Korea are "neighbors that cannot be moved away." Asia is a shared home for all three, and the benefits of trilateral cooperation far outweigh any potential drawbacks of hostility among them. The meeting implies their desire to strengthen bilateral ties. There has been a significant increasing involvement of external forces in East Asia that has become a dark cloud over the relationship of the three countries. During this critical period of geopolitical tensions in the region, China is committed to working with the ROK and Japan to implement the consensus reached by leaders, uphold diplomatic relations, and enhance political mutual trust. This includes dispelling misunderstandings, eliminating external interference, and moving toward each other.
The trilateral foreign ministers' meeting would advance the trilateral consultation mechanism, appraise cooperation among the three governments, and explore future prospects. This can reduce the "new Cold War" fog over the region.
The return of trilateral negotiations between East Asia's three largest nations must boost global economic recovery and promote regional peace. China, Japan, and the ROK must maintain regional stability, promote mutual gain, and strengthen economic cooperation. A successful trilateral summit could change their relations, impact East Asia's political landscape, and help resolve controversial issues.
Farhad Chowdhury, a special commentator for CGTN, is a security and strategic affairs researcher and columnist.