November 02, 2015 09:31
No contentious issues were discussed at a largely ceremonial summit of the leaders of Korea, China and Japan at Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday. The value of the meeting was that it took place at all, for the first time in over three years.
"In the spirit of facing history squarely and advancing towards the future, we agreed to make efforts to achieve regional peace and stability," President Park Geun-hye told reporters afterwards.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a separate meeting on the sidelines did clash over a number of contentious issues, chiefly to do with territorial ambitions and Japan's persistent attempts to whitewash its World War II atrocities.
Park said trilateral cooperation was "fully restored" and the three leaders will meet regularly again, so the next meeting will take place in Japan next year.
The three leaders adopted a bland joint declaration to much the same effect.
They called for the North Korean nuclear issue to be dealt with immediately. "We decided to continue joint efforts to resume meaningful six-party talks to make substantial progress in the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
They also agreed to speed up free trade talks and cooperation in e-commerce. They committed themselves to concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed FTA between the 10 member states of ASEAN and the six states with which it has existing FTAs -- Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.
Abe's meeting with Li went less smoothly. Abe told Li that it is "unproductive" for Korea and China to focus on a particular part of history, according to Japanese officials.
Li reportedly told Abe that he must be aware of the main reason why the trilateral summit was not held for the past three years. He said China-Japan relation "had to take the long way around" as a result.
The two leaders also clashed over islands in the East China Sea known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu. But Beijing and Tokyo agreed not to reveal the contents of their talks.
Tokyo's relations with Seoul also remain badly frayed due to Japan's failure to face up to the darker parts of its colonial history and wartime history, especially its World War II atrocities.
One of the key issues is a demand by wartime Korean sex slaves for an apology and compensation from Japan. Park and Abe meet separately on Monday.
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