South Korea, China and Japan vow to hold leadership summit

The foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan gathered in Seoul Saturday for their first meeting in nearly three years, aimed at calming regional tensions rooted in territorial and other diplomatic disputes. The three countries have strong economic ties but overall relations have long been tainted by unresolved historical issues dating back to Japan’s colonisation of the Korean peninsula and occupation of parts of China before and during World War II. Both Beijing and Seoul have maintained a frosty distance from Tokyo in recent years, although Sino-Korean ties have been enjoying an upswing.

[I urge all three countries to promote dialogue in a] forward-looking manner.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

China and South Korea feel Japan has failed to express sufficient remorse for its wartime past - and both reacted furiously when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a Tokyo shrine that honours Japan’s war dead, including a number of senior war criminals, in December 2013. That visit triggered the suspension of the annual trilateral meeting of foreign ministers, which was last held in April 2012. While South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held two fruitful summits, Park has refused to sit down one-on-one with Abe, while Xi has only managed a brief meeting with the Japanese premier on the sidelines of an APEC gathering in Beijing last year. The resumption of the three-way gatherings marks a step forward and has fuelled hopes of a trilateral leadership summit - possibly later in the year.