Japan, China, South Korea Mull FM Meeting in Busan This Month; Hopes Muted for Repair to Japan-China Relations

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
From left: Yoko Kamikawa, Wang Yi and Park Jin

Japan, China and South Korea are making final arrangements to hold a foreign ministers’ meeting in Busan, South Korea, on Nov. 26, according to Japanese, Chinese and South Korean diplomatic sources. This would be the first trilateral foreign ministerial meeting since August 2019.

Arrangements are also underway to hold a separate meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan and China there. Some Japanese government officials have high expectations for such high-level dialogue, but whether bilateral relations would improve as a result is far from certain, as there are still many ongoing issues.

The planned meeting in Busan is expected to be attended by Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The agenda is expected to include regional affairs and personnel exchanges.

It is also expected that the three foreign ministers will exchange views on the possibility of a trilateral summit meeting at an early date between the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea, which has not been held since December 2019.

There are many pending issues between Japan and China. Following the ocean release of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, China imposed a total ban on imports of Japanese marine products. Beijing has since rejected Japan’s repeated requests to lift the ban.

Japan has also been requesting that China immediately removes a buoy that Beijing installed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which is believed to be used for oceanographic observation.

China’s maritime expansion and other issues was expected to be discussed at the two-day meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, which began in Tokyo on Tuesday. “The Indo-Pacific, the most strategically important region, will also be on the agenda,” Kamikawa said at a press conference on the same day.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, which is scheduled to be held in San Francisco from Nov. 15-17. There are moves to explore holding a bilateral Japan-China summit meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit. However, whether Japan and China can mend ties is uncertain with a senior Liberal Democratic Party member saying, “Even if a [Japan-China summit] meeting were to take place, it is unclear whether it would lead directly to solutions to the issues at hand.”