SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) – China, Japan and South Korea will hold their highest-level diplomatic meeting in three years, a sign of rapprochement as they prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and Japan’s occupation of its two neighbours.
Foreign ministers from the three countries will meet some time this month, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyung Soo said Tuesday in Seoul at the start of a meeting with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts, according to an e-mailed statement from the ministry.
“The three countries were certainly able to experience that various disrupting factors surrounding us may shake up the entire trilateral cooperation mechanism at any time so easily, for trust has not yet taken deep root among the three countries,” Lee said in the statement.
Rows over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea have hurt relations between the nations, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compounded tensions in 2013 by visiting a Tokyo war shrine seen by some as a symbol of Japan’s past aggression in Asia. Abe has yet to hold a bilateral summit with South Korean President Park Geun Hye, and his first formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year appeared frosty
In that November summit, Japan and China agreed to gradually restart various political, diplomatic and security talks that were frozen as ties soured. China has demanded Japan do more to acknowledge its militant past and the countries said in their joint statement they now agreed to face history directly.
Park has said Japan must address the issue of so-called comfort women, many from Korea, who were trafficked in military brothels, before relations between the two countries can improve.
While Abe has sought to improve ties with China and South Korea, which are two of Japan’s biggest trading partners, he’s also weighing the wording of a planned statement in August to mark the war anniversary. The Japanese premier has hinted he may water down previous expressions of remorse in the declaration, risking an angry response from his neighbors.
The three countries’ foreign ministers last met in April 2012.