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Japan, China, S. Korea Hold Ministerial Talks


From right, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pose during the seventh trilateral foreign ministers' meeting in Seoul, South Korea, March 21, 2015.

The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan met in Seoul on Saturday for talks focused on reducing regional tensions caused by their territorial and historical disputes.

The three diplomats met after a series of bilateral meetings for the first formal talks since April 2012.

A joint statement after the talks said they had agreed to set up a trilateral summit of their countries' three leaders, as soon as it becomes convenient.

In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged "the concerned parties to work closely to promote mutual trust and future-oriented cooperation for the peace and prosperity in the region.” He said he hoped the ministers' meeting "will give a momentum to reinforce the trilateral cooperation mechanism."

Although the three countries have strong economic ties, relations have remained frosty because of ongoing territorial disputes with China, and animosity dating back to Japan's colonization of Korea and occupation of parts of China before and during World War II.

Prior to the talks, South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se to discuss issues of concern to all three countries.

Analysts suggested the trilateral talks could be a steppingstone to restoring annual discussions about cooperation.