September 13, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol affirmed his commitment to reinvigorating diplomatic relations by actively promoting a trilateral summit with Japan and China this year, noting that the leaders of both nations have also expressed support for resuming talks.
During a livestreamed Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning, Yoon spoke about the outcomes of his recent visits to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and the G-20 summit. The president returned home Monday after a seven-day trip to Indonesia and India.
“During the recent trip, Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida voiced their support for resuming the Korea-China-Japan summit,” he said. “As the chair country, Korea will actively promote hosting the summit.”
Yoon used the term “Korea, China and Japan” instead of “Korea, Japan and China,” which is how he had mentioned the talks during the two summits.
The trilateral summit, rotated among the three nations, last convened in December 2019 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. The event has been on hold since then, hindered by the pandemic and shifts in the international landscape, including escalating competition between the US and China.
If the meeting takes place this year, Seoul will host the event in its role as the chair country. With the Chinese premier typically representing China instead of the president at these gatherings, it appears highly probable that Li will visit Korea. During the G-20 summit, Yoon expressed to Li his anticipation for a reunion later in the year. The most recent official visit to Korea by a Chinese premier was in October 2015, during the tenure of former President Park Geun-hye.
Yoon’s National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong hinted at a potential visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping, possibly after the trilateral summit. “We will endeavor to facilitate the visit through diplomatic channels,” he said.
“President Xi said to our president at the G-20 summit held in Bali, Indonesia, last year that he was willing to go to Korea when the pandemic situation stabilizes,” Cho said during a television interview Monday. “It is highly likely that the Korea-Japan-China summit will be held first. I don’t know if (Xi’s visit to Korea) will happen this year, but I think it’s okay to look forward to it.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who assumed office in 2013, last visited Korea in July 2014, during the Park administration. Relations between Korea and China have since soured, primarily due to disputes surrounding the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, hindering any visits from high-ranking Chinese officials to Korea.
At the Cabinet meeting, Yoon also recounted his meeting with Chinese Premier Li. The president said to Li that since Korea and China have both strongly supported multilateralism and free trade, the two nations should work together to build an international order based on the norms that serve as its prerequisites.
Yoon also said to the Chinese leader that as the North Korean nuclear issue becomes more serious, the Korea-US-Japan relationship will “inevitably become stronger” and requested that China “play a responsible role” as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the development of Korea-China relations.
During this trip, President Yoon took part in a total of 33 diplomatic events, including six multilateral summits and 20 bilateral summits.
“Korea, which has the highest level of economic dependence on foreign countries, must travel to overseas markets as if (they) were our home to revitalize the economy and create quality jobs,” Yoon said, “That’s why exports and (the expansion of) companies overseas are so important.”
He vowed to meet with the “leaders of all countries” where Korean citizens and companies operate and support them during his term.
During the Cabinet meeting, Yoon also addressed the topic of re-establishing the authority of teachers. He remarked on a series of distressing developments in the education sector, emphasizing the urgent need for normalization in the field.
Yoon ordered the Education Ministry and the Justice Ministry to “quickly create guidelines” for the legitimate exercise of educational rights. Noting several bills related to the protection of teachers that have not yet passed in the National Assembly, Yoon called for the swift passage of the bills.
The proposed bills prevent the classification of teachers’ legitimate guidance or reprimand of students as a breach of child abuse laws, as well as identifying malicious complaints against teachers as an infringement of teaching rights and mandates parents to work together to support teachers in educational activities.