South Korea, China and Japan Thursday announced plans to hold a trilateral meeting in October or November, in what could be a diplomatic breakthrough following months of tension.
A statement from the president’s office in Seoul said President Park Geun-hye and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed trilateral cooperation would contribute to peace and prosperity in the region. The summit is expected to take place in South Korea.
Tensions have been running high in China and South Korea over demands that Japan more fully apologize for wartime atrocities committed under Japanese occupation. An apology by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month largely repeated what his predecessors had said, drawing criticism from Seoul and Beijing.
But President Park decided last month to travel to Beijing for Thursday’s celebrations marking the victory over Japan, which analysts say helped ease the way for diplomacy. She was one of the few leaders of a U.S.-allied nation who actively participated in the event.
But her broader mission is likely aimed at more fully engaging Beijing’s help in lowering tensions with North Korea.
“Park’s presence in the parade is no doubt very significant,” Wu Fengshi, associate professor at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said. “She is expecting support from China in case of a major conflict with North Korea.”
There are signs South Korea wants to be paid back for the participation almost immediately. Commentators on Chinese state television said Seoul wants Beijing to increase pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as North Korea is called, and resume the process of six-party talks for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“It is important for China to deal with DPRK by freezing assets in the short term. But in the long term, Beijing must get promises from South Korea and the U.S. to prepare a roadmap for DPRK’s full denuclearization,” Kim Han-kwon, an analyst with the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said on China Central Television.
A South Korean government spokesman made no secret of President Park’s intentions in coming to the parade when he said, “President Park’s decision took into account friendly cooperation ties with our neighboring countries. We look at China to play an active role in peace and unification on the Korean peninsula.”