South Korea will host senior diplomats from China and Japan on Tuesday for a rare trilateral meeting seen as aimed at assuaging Beijing's concerns about the tightening relationship between the two U.S. allies.
The meeting aims to establish the stage for the resumption of three-way summits between the nations' leaders, which were held in 2019. The talks between Seoul and Tokyo were suspended because of disputes related to Japan's occupation of Korea from 1910-1945.
The two Japanese Prime Ministers, Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, have since taken steps to mend relations and held a historic trilateral summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in August, where they vowed to enhance cooperation, including on defense and economic security.
China has been proactive in seeking trilateral cooperation and arranging meetings since relations soured between Seoul and Beijing in 2017 over the deployment of a U.S. THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea.
Beijing will most likely look to leverage trilateral trade cooperation to counterbalance the U.S. friend-shoring strategy, promote people-to-people exchanges, and enhance communication and dialogue with Seoul and Tokyo on security and defence issues, said Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Japan and South Korea have an interest in avoiding conflicts and maintaining a stable security relationship with China, he said, and Beijing's assistance in slowing down, if not halting North Korea's extensive nuclear development program.
Zhao said he was very confident that he would be able to continue working with the company, which he chaired at the time.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin said China, Japan and South Korea are close neighbours and important cooperative partners and that strong trilateral cooperation serves their common interests.
The trilateral summits have historically focused on China's prime minister, but South Korea is also pushing for a separate visit by President Xi Jinping.