Success of Seoul summit no guarantee of future ties

Media in China, S. Korea, Japan hails talks, but Beijing, Seoul remain guarded about relations

BEIJING • As rare as it may be, media reports in China, South Korea and Japan have, in unison, hailed the three countries' efforts in breaking the ice in a trilateral summit over the weekend. However, Beijing and Seoul did not forget to sound a note of caution, warning that future cooperation could be hampered by Japan's "irresponsible" approach to history.

The Korea Herald yesterday said the summit in Seoul on Sunday achieved its primary goal - restoring the three-way cooperation that had stalled because of historical and territorial disputes for more than three years.

In China, state-run daily tabloid Global Times said the summit signalled a "turning point" from which the trio could get back on the right track.

"We may be able to draw new inspirations when we consider our relationships with Japan in the light of the dynamism of North-east Asia and the Asia-Pacific," a commentary by the Global Times said on Monday. "Taking advantage of the summit as an opportunity, China should re-read not only Japan, but also ourselves."

Japanese media noted that the meeting was marked by a focus on economic issues and an effort to maintain a harmonious mood.

STILL-FRAGILE TRILATERAL TIES

It may be too early to talk about a united, harmonious North-east Asia... Historical and territorial disputes could easily freeze the thawing ties, unless all stakeholders are equally rational in managing those sensitive triggers.

CHINA DAILY

"The Japanese government aims to develop relations with China and South Korea by setting aside historical issues, which the two countries have been fixed on," The Japan News said.

However, neither Chinese nor South Korean media was willing to let Japan off the hook.

The Korea Herald said all the "positive elements" of the summit did not guarantee the trio's commitment to the spirit of cooperation reflected in a joint statement issued after the meeting.

The statement said trilateral cooperation had been "completely restored" during the summit and the three leaders would continue to meet every year.

The Korean media also noted a lack of a concrete agreement on the sex slavery issue between Seoul and Tokyo, despite President Park Geun Hye's talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"Whether Mr Abe will face history squarely, as was noted in the joint statement, will largely determine whether the momentum will be fully taken advantage of," the newspaper said yesterday.

China Daily was even less optimistic, saying that the statement presented "little more than a shared willingness to work together".

"It may be too early to talk about a united, harmonious North-east Asia," the English newspaper said on Monday, adding that the joint statement displayed little assurance that history and territory issues will stop haunting the neighbourhood.

"Historical and territorial disputes could easily freeze the thawing ties, unless all stakeholders are equally rational in managing those sensitive triggers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Success of Seoul summit no guarantee of future ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe