China, South Korea, Japan summit on May 9: Nobody wants to miss ‘North Korea peace’ moment
The Far East is in the middle of a diplomatic spring. After North Korean leader Kim Jong-un opened up with his neighbours and also the United States, all parties concerned are having regular diplomatic engagements at various levels in the run-up to the eagerly awaited meeting between the former and US President Donald Trump.
On May 9, less than a fortnight after the historic Inter-Korean Summit in Punmunjeom and the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Pyongyang, the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea are set to meet over a trilateral summit in Tokyo, their first in two-and-half-years, where North Korea and economic cooperation would be high on priority.
China's ties with both South Korea and Japan have seen low points in the recent years, thanks to territorial disputes between them as well the deterioration in relationships between Beijing and Washington over a plethora of issues - ranging from North Korea to military installations to trade war.
The summit is being regarded as a symbol of improvement in China's relationships with South Korea and Japan and issues like peace initiative in the Korean Peninsula and growing protectionism by Donald Trump's US have served as gluing factors.
For China and Japan, it is also a moment to make their voices relevant in the Korean peace process. With the US and South Korea taking more proactive stances on North Korea and the presidents of the two countries - Trump and Moon Jae-in, respectively, getting pats on their backs and calls for them deserving the Nobel Peace Prize also emerging, it becomes necessary for China to ensure that the US and its ally do not run away with the credit for peace in North Korea.
Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping soon after the world was stunned by the news of Trump accepting the idea of meeting Kim personally while Yi visited North Korea the week after the Kim-Moon summit.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Moon will represent China and South Korea, respectively, at the summit in Tokyo. The year 2018 also marks four decades since in signing of a friendship treaty between China and Japan and this gives the two former foes an opportunity to mend their relationships especially at a time when both China and Japan are becoming increasingly nationalistic.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ratings at home have nosedived in recent times, will also hold bilateral talks with the Chinese and South Korean leaderships on the sidelines of the summit, it was reported by The Straits Times.
The three powers are also expected to issue a joint statement over trilateral cooperation towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula but they are yet to reach a consensus on the wording of the key document, Nikkei Asian Review cited Japanese sources as saying recently, the reason being the differences between Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul over how to go about over Kim's pledge for a "complete denuclearisation" as has been stated in the historic Punmunjeom Declaration which was jointly made by North and South Korea in April.
Japan's stance on maintaining the pressure on North Korea could be at odds with the other two sides but Tokyo is the only country which has found itself on the sidelines of the peace effort more than anybody else despite the fact that North Korea's nuclear testings often posed a grave threat to its territory.