Japan, China, South Korea agree to strengthen ties

SEOUL - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang affirmed during a trilateral summit meeting here on Sunday - the first that the three countries have held in more than three years - that their countries will strengthen ties on the security and economic fronts by holding the three-way talks on a regular basis.

Addressing the press together after the meeting, Park spoke about major points the three countries agreed upon: holding a trilateral summit meeting regularly, accelerating free trade agreement negotiations, making joint efforts for sustainable development, substantially expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and coping with regional and global issues such as making efforts to resume six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear development.

These five points were included in a joint declaration on peace and co-operation in Northeast Asia, which was issued after the meeting.

The joint declaration said in its preamble that the three countries, in the spirit of squarely facing history and moving toward the future, will appropriately deal with various relevant challenges, and improve and strengthen bilateral and trilateral ties among the three countries.

Park, as president of the country hosting the trilateral summit, hailed the 90-minute meeting, saying the fact that the three countries held the three-way summit and normalised this framework this year - the 70th year after World War II - was a significant foundation for peace in East Asia.

"We had frank talks and candid exchanges of opinions for regional peace and prosperity," Abe said at the press session. He emphasised the importance of continued co-operation among the three countries, saying that Japan, South Korea and China share a large responsibility for regional peace and prosperity as well as international peace and stability. "It was a great achievement that we were able to normalise the co-operation process between Japan, South Korea and China through today's summit meeting, which was held for the first time in 3½ years," he added.

Abe announced that Japan will host next year's trilateral summit meeting.

Abe said Japan, South Korea and China should conclude a comprehensive FTA at an early date. Abe also said he strongly urged Park and Li to help resolve the abduction issue.

Li, meanwhile, said China, South Korea and Japan agreed to promote co-operation between the three countries and the economy in Northeast Asia under the principle of squarely facing history and dealing with sensitive historical issues in a future-oriented manner.

According to Japanese government sources, issues related to China's recent maritime expansion in the South China Sea were not discussed during the trilateral summit meeting.

The three leaders did not take questions from reporters during their joint press appearance.

Sunday's trilateral summit meeting was the first in about 3½ years.

The first meeting was held in Japan in December 2008, but the meetings were later suspended after China opposed Japan's nationalisation of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in September 2012.

The last previous meeting was held in Beijing in May 2012.

Gist of joint declaration

The three countries:

  • will regularly hold trilateral summits; Japan to chair in 2016
  • will accelerate negotiations for a trilateral free trade agreement
  • will expand people-to-people exchanges, increasing the figure to US$30 million (S$42 million) by 2020
  • will co-operate to solve North Korea's nuclear issue