Foreign ministers meeting of China, Korea and Japan in Beijing on Wednesday. Wu Hong/ Reuters
The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea met in Beijing on Wednesday as they seek to encourage progress on North Korean denuclearisation.
The trilateral discussion took place amid tense relations between Japan and South Korea over export controls.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China will work with the two countries to maintain multilateralism and free trade and commit to the region’s stability.
He met with Japan’s Taro Kono and South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha.
Ties between Japan and South Korea have been strained since Japan tightened export controls on key materials for South Korea’s semiconductor industry and decided to downgrade the nation’s trade status.
Seoul accuses Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate for political rows over wartime history.
China and South Korea only recently began healing ties after Beijing exacted painful economic retaliation on South Korea over Seoul’s decision to host a powerful US missile defense system.
Wang met separately with Kono on Tuesday. China and Japan are enjoying an unusually calm period in their often-turbulent relationship, which was at a breaking point a few years ago due to a dispute over East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
China is North Korea’s most important ally and has argued that steps by Pyongyang depend on security assurances from Seoul and Washington.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in says the global diplomatic push to defuse the nuclear standoff with North Korea is at a “critical crossroads” and has called for China to continue serving a “positive role”
China hosts the leaders of squabbling neighbours South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, flexing its diplomatic muscle with America’s two key military allies in Asia and seeking regional unity on how to deal with a belligerent North Korea.
The spectre of new confrontation between Pyongyang and Washington hangs over meetings between China, Japan and South Korea this week, with growing risks North Korean actions could end an uneasy detente and upend recent diplomatic efforts.
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