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China talks security, business with U.S.-allied S. Korea, Japan | The Asahi Shimbun: Breaking News, Japan News and Analysis

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SEOUL/TOKYO/BEIJING–Chinese Premier Li Qiang agreed with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday to launch a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume free trade talks, and discussed tensions around Taiwan with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The leaders held bilateral meetings in Seoul a day before the first summit by the three Asian neighbors in more than four years.

China and the U.S.-allied South Korea and Japan are trying to manage rising distrust amid the rivalry between Beijing and Washington and tensions over Taiwan.

Expectations are low for Monday’s trilateral summit, but even handshakes would help maintain at least some high-level diplomacy after years of deteriorating relations, diplomats and officials say.

Yoon told Li that South Korea and China should work together not only to promote shared interests based on mutual respect but also on regional and global issues to tackle common challenges, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict and global economic uncertainties.

“I hope to continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation even in the face of today’s global complex crises,” Yoon said at the start of the meeting, according to his office.

Yoon asked China to play a greater role as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, especially as North Korea continues to develop nuclear missiles and boost military cooperation with Russia, saying another spy satellite launch using intercontinental ballistic-missile technology is imminent.

Li told Yoon their countries should oppose turning economic and trade issues into political or security ones, and should work to maintain stable supply chains, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Li said China was ready to strengthen cooperation in high-end manufacturing, new energy, artificial intelligence, biomedicine and other fields.

China will further expand market access, strengthen guarantees for foreign investment and welcomes more South Korean companies do business in the country, he said. In a separate meeting with Samsung Chairman Jay Y. Lee, Li encouraged the Korean tech giant to boost its investment in China.

In recent years, Chinese leaders and diplomats have frequently condemned the U.S. and its allies over export controls targeting its semiconductor industry by calling on these countries to stop “overstretching the concept of national security”.

Since 2021, Chinese companies and state entities have been increasingly cut off from ready access to the world’s most advanced chips, many of them produced by South Korean tech giants, such as Samsung and SK Hynix.

Li expressed hopes for continuing efforts to “build consensus and resolve differences” through “equal dialogue and sincere communications.”

PRACTICAL COOPERATION

The three leaders attended a banquet where multicultural choirs and bands performed traditional and modern songs, while the menu included tofu, dumplings and bean pastes – cuisine staples in all three countries.

At a separate meeting with Kishida, Yoon lauded progress on diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges with Japan, and they agreed to deepen ties next year when the two countries celebrate the 60th anniversary of normalizing relations, Yoon’s office said.

Kishida also met separately with Li, stressing the importance of the stability of the Taiwan Strait for Japan and the international community.

Li told Kishida that he hoped Japan would “properly handle issues like Taiwan,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Kishida told reporters after the meeting he had asked Beijing to lift an import ban on Japanese seafood, imposed after Japan began releasing treated wastewater from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific.

He also asked for the early release of Japanese citizens detained in China.

China and Japan agreed to hold a new round of bilateral high-level economic dialogue at an appropriate time, according to CCTV.

The three neighbors had agreed to hold annual summits starting in 2008, but bilateral feuds and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the initiative, with the last three-way summit held in late 2019.

Yoon, Li and Kishida will adopt a joint statement on six areas including the economy and trade, science and technology, people-to-people exchanges and health and the aging population, Seoul officials said.

The summit comes as South Korea and Japan have been working to mend ties frayed by historical disputes while deepening a trilateral security partnership with the United States amid its intensifying rivalry with China.

Beijing has previously warned that U.S. efforts to further elevate relations with South Korea and Japan could fan regional tension and confrontation.

Seoul and Tokyo have warned against any attempts to forcibly change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, while Beijing on Tuesday criticized a decision by South Korean and Japanese lawmakers to attend Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration.

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