December 10, 2023

Meeting comes amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula as Pyongyang ramps up weapons tests and courts Russia.

South Korea has hosted senior diplomats from China and Japan for a rare trilateral meeting seen as an attempt to ease Beijing’s concerns about Seoul and Tokyo’s deepening security ties with the United States and revive a long-suspended trilateral leaders’ summit.

Seoul has been reinforcing ties with the US and Japan as North Korea carries out regular tests of banned weapons and seeks closer relationships with countries such as Russia.

In August, South Korea, Japan and the US hailed a “new milestone” in cooperation at a historic summit in Washington, DC. The close allies have also held regular military drills.

Tuesday’s meeting involved South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chung Byung-won, Japanese Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takehiro Funakoshi and China’s Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Nong Rong.

The three earlier held talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin who told them to “work closely together” and “produce tangible outcomes, which will produce benefits that can be felt by the people of the three countries.”

Discussions are taking place amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula [Jeon Heong-Kyun/EPA]

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a briefing on Monday that the three countries were close neighbours as well as important cooperative partners and that strengthening trilateral cooperation served their common interests.

The first three-way summits were held in 2008 but were suspended in 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a bitter dispute between Tokyo and Seoul over issues dating from Japanese colonial rule and World War II.

China is nuclear-armed North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner.

It recently sent senior officials to attend Pyongyang’s military parades.

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