Japan, China, S. Korea summit ‘canceled’ again

A trilateral summit between Japan, China and South Korea is unlikely to be held for the second year in a row due to deteriorating relations between Japan and the other two countries.

South Korea, the chair of the summit, has informally told the Japanese government of its intention not to hold the summit, according to Japanese government officials.

The three countries agreed in 2008 to hold the summit once a year on a rotational basis, yet there is no prospect of its resumption since it was last held in China in December 2019, they said.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea has deteriorated due to a South Korean court’s decision to order the Japanese government to pay compensation to former South Korean comfort women and the issue of the rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula. It is in its worst state since the end of World War II, according to an executive official of the Foreign Ministry.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has sought to improve relations with Japan by holding a Japan-South Korea summit to coincide with the trilateral summit.

However, Tokyo has been cautious about holding a summit without the prospect of Seoul coming up with a solution to the comfort women problem and other issues. Hence the meeting has not been realized.

Tensions in Japan-China relations have also been rising due to provocations by Chinese maritime patrol vessels in the waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture — another reason why the trilateral meeting has not been held.

At the trilateral summit, the three countries had been discussing such issues as how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, cooperation over the economy and disaster prevention, and people-to-people exchanges.

There have been times where the summit had not been held for more than three years due to Chinese opposition to Japan’s nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands in 2012.