November 4, 2015 | News
The meeting held this Sunday between leaders from China, Japan and South Korea marks the first one in over three years. The three leaders met in South Korea’s capital, Seoul, in President Park Geun-hye’s Blue House. Tensions have been high between the three countries, specifically between Japan and its two neighbours. There have been disputes over island territories and wartime history, specifically the recruitment of South Korean and Chinese women as sex slaves during World War II by Japan. The three leaders had previously held five trilateral meetings between 2008 and 2012, but when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent offerings to and visited the Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine dedicated to war dead and war criminals, the meetings stopped.
The meeting discussed commitment to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions and a trilateral free trade agreement. They also discussed working together to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade area for 16 nations in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. An agreement was also made to meet again next year, this time in Tokyo. South Korea had previously completed a free-trade agreement with China, its biggest trading partner.
Discussions and agreements between the three countries came as a surprise to many analysts, who were skeptical that any major deal would amount from the meeting. But, as the New York Times put it, “their discussions reflected the fact that their countries, which are among the world’s largest economies, rely on one another for badly needed growth.” On top of that, Ms. Park, during a joint press conference, said “This summit meeting carries a historic significance because it restores a system of cooperation among the three countries, which in turn is an important frame of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.” Ms. Park and the Premier Li Keqiang of China met a few days before Mr. Abe joined them to discuss increase in trade and co-operation on robotics research.
While this meeting is historic and filled with future potential for trade agreements, both South Korea and Japan feel torn between their allegiances to the U.S and the need of economic interactions with China. China is reportedly an ally to North Korea, while Washington has been pressing Japan and South Korea, its key allies in Northeast Asia, to mend in order to deal with China’s growing influence in the region.