Islands Dispute May Delay China-Japan-South Korea Trilateral Summit: Reports

April 4, 2013Asia Pacificby EW News Desk Team

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China is reportedly demanding for the annual China–Japan–South Korea Trilateral Summit to be postponed over its unresolved dispute with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, claimed the Kyodo News Agency on Thursday, even as former Japan Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda prepares to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month to discuss Sino-Japanese ties.

According to Kyodo’s sources, South Korea, who is scheduled to chair the annual meeting in Seoul, had urged the Chinese government to drop the demand, though Beijing has refused, giving rise to speculation that the summit will not be held until June or later.

Ju Chul-ki, South Korea’s senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, further admitted to Yonhap News that the meeting of the nations’ leaders could be delayed, though he insisted that “the meeting will be held."

"It is still too early to say that there was a request for postponement. We need to do more coordination," said Ju, in response to Kyodo’s report.

"The three countries should reach agreement. If coordination goes well, it will be held (in May). Otherwise, it could be delayed a little bit," he added.

At a news conference in Tokyo late last month, China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, also placed doubt over a May summit, claiming that it could be too soon for Japanese and Chinese leaders to meet, given the present tensions.

“It would not be good for the top leaders to get into a fight as soon as they meet,” he said.

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Additionally, according to the Japan Press, the past months have seen the Japanese Coast Guard and Chinese vessels chase each other across the waters, while there have been accusations from both sides of trained missiles to directly hit each others’ vessels.

Nevertheless, some of the tensions at least could be eased if former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda manages to set up a meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the annual Boao Forum for Asia this weekend.

Fukuda, who placed great emphasis on Japan-China relations during his term from 2007-2008, will reportedly communicate to Xi that both Beijing and Tokyo must be willing to put extra effort into finding solutions over the islands.

An ex-Chinese official on Wednesday also urged Beijing to work with Tokyo in repairing ties. Wei Jianguo, vice-chairman and secretary-general of the China International Economic and Exchange Center, told the state-owned China Daily that Sino-Japanese relations were now at a “crossroads”, urging the two nations to get their economic and trade ties back on track as the latest economic figures showed sluggishness since tensions rose last year.

Bilateral trade in January and February was $44.99 billion, a year-on-year decline of 8.2 percent, said Wei. Imports from Japan also down 15.5 percent, according to Wei, who is a former vice-minister of commerce.

China, Japan and South Korea have a combined trade volume of $5.32 trillion. The three parties, if they meet, are also set to discuss a trilateral free trade pact, which could rival the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact.

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