Beijing tells Seoul, Tokyo that mutual respect is key

Beijing is ready to work with Seoul and Tokyo to "move the trilateral cooperation back on track and secure its healthy, stable and sustained development", Foreign Minister Wang said.


November 27, 2023

BEIJING – Meeting: Ruling out external interference key to relations

Beijing has underlined the urgent need to shore up mutual respect and reject economic “decoupling”, during productive senior diplomats’ talks over the weekend with Japan and the Republic of Korea, two of China’s key Northeast Asian neighbors.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi held one-on-one talks with the foreign ministers of Japan and the ROK during his stay in the ROK city of Busan to attend the China-Japan-ROK trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting on Sunday.

The trilateral meeting took place more than four years after the last such meeting in 2019.

Observers and officials noted that although the trilateral governmental dialogue mechanism has witnessed a slowdown in its progress over the four years, the three nations gave a push to the enactment of a 15-member free trade agreement that they signed up for — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

By doing so, the three countries “injected dynamism into post-pandemic recovery and regional economic integration”, Wang said at the meeting.

Beijing is ready to work with Seoul and Tokyo to “move the trilateral cooperation back on track and secure its healthy, stable and sustained development”, Wang said.

At the meeting, the three sides agreed to create conditions for the China-Japan-ROK leaders’ meeting and step up relevant preparations. Wang called for resuming negotiations on the proposed China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible. He asked for joint efforts to maintain, optimize and upgrade production and supply chains to enhance the resilience of the regional production network.

The combined population of the three countries accounts for one-fifth of the global total, and their combined GDP is more than one-fourth of global GDP.

Analysts said the three countries, as important global economic players, should not build trade or political barriers against each other and should not fall victim to bloc-based confrontation sought by players from outside the region.

Recently, China-ROK relations have been plagued by topics such as the United States-ROK alliance as well as economic and trade issues.

During Wang’s one-on-one meeting with ROK Foreign Minister Park Jin on Sunday, Wang said that development of the bilateral ties should always be aimed at friendship and cooperation, which is “a mandatory question that must be answered well by both sides, not an optional question”.

Wang highlighted China’s willingness to work with the ROK to “uphold mutual respect and trust, and rule out external interference”.

Wang pointed out that the two sides should jointly boycott attempts to politicize economic issues, use scientific and technological issues as political tools, or make economic and trade issues a security concern.

He defined the two countries as “highly interlocking partners in the production and supply chain”.

Park said that Seoul is willing to “strengthen dialogue and communication with Beijing at all levels”, deepen economic and trade cooperation, maintain supply chain stability and promote people-to-people exchanges, adding that Seoul attaches importance to its relations with China.

Wang Junsheng, a researcher of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the ROK “has to be cautious in its words and actions” when it comes to sovereignty topics involving China’s core interests, such as the Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue.

“The US-Japan-ROK security alliance should also take China’s concerns into account,” he added.

Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in San Francisco.

Wang, in his separate meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa on Saturday in Busan, said the two sides should implement the leaders’ consensus and push their ties forward on a healthy, correct track.

At the meeting, the two sides agreed to actively discuss holding a new round of high-level economic dialogue and a meeting of the consultation mechanism for high-level people-to-people exchanges.

Beijing and Tokyo also agreed to hold at appropriate times the China-Japan Strategic Dialogue, the China-Japan Security Dialogue and the regular consultations between diplomatic authorities.

Wang said that to rebuild the bilateral strategic and mutually beneficial relationship, it will be necessary to establish a correct mutual understanding and respect each other’s legitimate concerns. He said that Tokyo should “faithfully abide by the one-China principle”.

In addition, the two countries should strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and jointly reject anti-globalization and protectionist moves, Wang said.

Kamikawa said that Japan is willing to coordinate closely with China, strengthen dialogue and communication, and continue to accumulate positive factors to push forward its ties with China.

She emphasized that Tokyo’s position on the Taiwan question remains unchanged.

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