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Strategic autonomy of Seoul and Tokyo crucial for upturn in regional relations: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-05-26 22:34

Chinese Premier Li Qiang meets with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul, South Korea, May 26, 2024. Li arrived here Sunday to attend the ninth Trilateral Summit Meeting among China, Japan and South Korea from Sunday to Monday. [Photo/Xinhua]

The positive outcomes of the meeting between visiting Chinese Premier Li Qiang with Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on Sunday have undoubtedly raised hopes that the ninth Trilateral Summit Meeting among China, Japan and Republic of Korea being held in the ROK capital on Monday can help repair the fraught regional economic relations.

That Li and Yoon agreed to launch a diplomatic and security dialogue and resume talks on a free trade agreement represents a good beginning for the two sides to make joint efforts to address their common concerns and to expand their common interests.

After the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the ROK over 30 years ago, relations between the two neighbors developed rapidly on the basis of mutual respect, openness and inclusiveness, mutual benefit and win-win results, and their booming economic and trade cooperation yielded fruitful results, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples.

As Li said, these valuable experiences are worth cherishing and persisting with in the long term.

China is willing to work with the ROK to accelerate the second phase of negotiations on their bilateral free trade agreement on a pragmatic and balanced basis. That shows the goodwill, openness and earnestness of the Chinese side's efforts to keep China-ROK ties on the right track. The ROK should respond positively in kind.

It was therefore good to hear Yoon reiterate the ROK's commitment to the one-China principle, and to developing bilateral relations by maintaining high-level exchanges and close communication on the basis of mutual respect, expanding economic and trade cooperation, and enhancing people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

That the trilateral summit mechanism has been suspended since 2019 indicates how much external influence has affected the relations among China, Japan and the ROK in the past few years. But to what extent the meeting on Monday can help return the trilateral ties back to their right track depends on how far Japan and the ROK can focus on the common interests of the region and practice strategic independence.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also struck a positive note in that respect, saying Japan is willing to maintain and strengthen its cooperation with China, when he met with Premier Li on Sunday in Seoul, which hopefully augurs well for the trilateral talks.

With the crises in Gaza and Ukraine having shown how quickly conflicts can be triggered and how hard it is to contain their effects, the three countries have a new prism with which to view their relations and the situation in East Asia.

If Japan and the ROK can show they are willing and able to uphold their strategic autonomy, then their relations with China can certainly produce more than just handshakes.

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