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Strained ties dissolve hope for trilateral conference

Updated: 2013-11-08 00:12
By Li Xiaokun and Zhouwa ( China Daily)

China and ROK unimpressed with Japan's actions and attitude

Strained ties dissolve hope for trilateral conference

Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin (second from left), Republic of Korea Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Lee Kyung-Soo (right) and Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama (left) arrive at the 8th Trilateral Senior Foreign Affairs Officials' Consultation in Seoul on Thursday. [Photo/Agencies]

A rare meeting of senior diplomats from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, which was held in Seoul on Thursday, failed to agree on holding a trilateral summit amid Japan's tensions with its neighbors over historic issues and territorial disputes.

Media and experts from China and the ROK said there is little likelihood of a summit before year's end because Japan's tough right-wing attitude has further provoked its neighbors.

"Beijing and Seoul will by no means accept Tokyo's actions of denying its crimes committed in the war while at the same time seeking a diplomatic breakthrough," said Lyu Yaodong, a researcher on Japanese studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Thursday's meeting came one day after Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called for a trilateral summit at an early date.

However, an ROK foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that so far there is no plan for such a summit or a foreign ministers' meeting.

Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency also said that though the officials discussed a trilateral foreign ministers' meeting and a summit on Thursday, "given the current ROK-Japan and China-Japan relations, it is highly unlikely the trilateral summit will be realized this year".

Still, the three nations agreed to try their best to "not let bilateral political problems hamper the trilateral cooperation mechanism", said the report.

The vice-minister-level meeting, called the Trilateral Senior Foreign Officials' Consultation, was the first of its kind since the three nations' current administrations came to power. It is a major consultative channel for trilateral cooperation. It has been 20 months since the three neighbors held their last round of such meetings.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency said on Wednesday that the ROK might still strive to hold the summit within this year, as Seoul is the current host.

However, ROK President Park Geun-hye, who is on a European trip, told the BBC she saw no point in a summit with the Japanese leader unless the country apologized for wartime "wrongdoings".

The summit has been held annually since 2008 and was originally set for May in the ROK.

Lyu, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said there had been a favorable cooperative atmosphere among the three nations, but Japan's actions, including denying its history of militarist aggression and "purchasing" China's Diaoyu Islands, have broken the sound atmosphere.

"Japan should first change its wrong stance, otherwise a trilateral meeting is meaningless, even if it can be reluctantly realized," Lyu said.

Chen Qi, a professor on international affairs at Tsinghua University, said "Japan is eager to push for a trilateral meeting because it needs to give an account to the United States," which is unhappy with the deadlock in Northeast Asia as it harms US interests there.

"In the long term, the three nations have the need to restore relations," he said.

However, "whether there will be a trilateral meeting depends not only on diplomatic needs, but also national strategies and public opinion", he said.

"So far the public in China and the ROK are unsatisfied with Japan's attitude."

Li Wei, a commentator with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, said on Thursday that "I can guarantee there will be no summit by year's end, and whether it will be held next year is still in question".

If there is one in 2014, Li said, the site is highly likely to be in the ROK because it is impossible for leaders of Beijing or Seoul to visit Japan amid tensions.

In sharp contrast, vice-foreign ministers of China and the ROK met on Thursday morning, ahead of the triple meeting in the afternoon.

Kyodo said it is worth noting whether Japan will have bilateral meetings with China and the ROK on Thursday.

Contact the writers at lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn and zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn

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