Published: 09:23, April 1, 2024 | Updated: 18:02, April 1, 2024
China-Japan-ROK meeting to be held to bolster ties
By Zhou Jin in Boao, Hainan

A trilateral meeting among the leaders of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea is expected to be held in the near future to discuss joint efforts in tackling various challenges and normalizing trilateral cooperation, said Lee Hee-sup, secretary-general of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat.

Issues such as geopolitical tension, conflicts, disruption of industrial and supply chains, and peace and stability in Northeast Asia have highlighted the importance and urgency of cooperation among the three neighbors, Lee told China Daily on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2024 in Boao, Hainan province.

In 2008, the leaders of the three countries met for the first time outside the ASEAN Plus Three framework — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the ROK — which launched the mechanism of the trilateral leaders' meeting

"No country can handle all these challenges alone. Solidarity is needed, so the three countries and the TCS need to facilitate trilateral cooperation as soon as possible," he said, adding that the three governments are already preparing to hold the meeting.

Lee said that topics such as economic recovery, digital transition, supply chains, green growth, public health and the Northeast Asia situation are expected to be on the agenda of the meeting.

In 2008, the leaders of the three countries met for the first time outside the ASEAN Plus Three framework — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan and the ROK — which launched the mechanism of the trilateral leaders' meeting.

The three leaders have met seven times since then, with their last meeting being in 2019 in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

In November, the foreign ministers of the three countries met for the first time in four years in Busan, ROK, with the delay mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as fluctuations in bilateral relations, Lee said.

During the meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to hold a leaders' meeting at the earliest convenient time.

Lee said that the resumption of meetings among the leaders and ministers of China, Japan and the ROK signals the resumption and normalization of cooperation among the three countries.

The issue of regional security is a very sensitive topic for the three countries, but they have had experience in discussing the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asia situations in the past, he said.

High tension on the peninsula is not helping any of the countries, Lee said, calling for close trilateral cooperation to maintain peace and stability in the region.

He emphasized that trilateral cooperation will not only be meaningful for China, Japan and the ROK, but also benefit the rest of Asia and the world.

Statistics show that the three countries account for about 24 percent of global GDP and over 80 percent of the GDP of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

In the face of rapidly changing global dynamics, adjustments and improvements must be made, and East Asian nations, including China, Japan and the ROK, need to elevate the RCEP to its "envisioned level", Lee said.

He highlighted the need for more youth communication and grassroots exchanges in promoting future relations among the three countries.

Asked about the decline in mutual favorability among the peoples of the three countries in recent years and the rise in negative sentiments online, Lee attributed such misunderstandings and misconceptions partly to structural changes in bilateral relations and partly to differences in culture and historical perspective.

Mainstream media and social media platforms may have played a role in amplifying these sentiments, he said. "Young people are main players in the future of the three countries. … They will be the solid foundation for trilateral cooperation."

Lee said the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat has been focusing on promoting youth communication. It has been organizing activities such as the Young Ambassador Program, speech contests and annual youth summits to gather young people from the three countries, in order to improve their ability to communicate with each other and foster friendship.

Maybe it will take some time for the results to show, but trilateral cooperation needs to be future-oriented, not just based on the present, he added.

The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat is an international organization established with the vision to promote lasting peace, common prosperity and shared culture among China, Japan and the ROK.