A new starting pointThe leaders of South Korea, China and Japan met for the first time in three and half years. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held summit talks for an hour and a half at the invitation of President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House in Seoul. In a joint press conference, they declared that a tripartite cooperative framework was back on track after the meeting. They also came up with a lengthy 56-point agreement pledging to work towards regional peace and cooperation. The three key Asian countries moved beyond historical and territorial issues and normalized the relationship for the future.
“In the spirit of facing history squarely and advancing towards the future, we agreed to make efforts to realize regional peace and stability,” Park said as host to the talks. The three leaders said they must work together to overcome the so-called “northeast paradox,” referring to the sensitive political and security dilemma stemming from Japan’s imperialist past weighing over the three nations, despite their interwoven economies and trade.
They also agreed to revitalize various multi-government and private cooperative networks and ventures. The three will expand and develop trilateral ventures, including the creation of a joint fund to promote their cooperation in crucial areas. The leaders will also cooperate to restore the now-defunct six-party platform on denuclearizing North Korea as soon as possible. The biggest achievement can be found in preparing to ease regional tensions that have ratcheted up since right-wing Abe took office and pushed ahead with a campaign to restore military power and whitewash its past actions.
Although there was little progress in historical issues, the three Asian nations were in full agreement to accelerate their efforts to move towards economic integration in the region. The three have agreed to make a full-fledged effort to establish a trilateral free trade agreement on a higher level and cooperate in a deal for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership led by China. The three countries will also lift regulations in e-commerce to bring the combined population of 1.5 billion under a single, unfettered cyber market. Strengthened partnerships and integration of the three economies that account for 22.8 percent ($16.9 trillion) of the global gross domestic product and 18.8 percent ($6.9 trillion) of the world’s trade could provide traction to the slipping global economy.
Seoul hosted the trilateral meeting amid Washington’s repeated urging to restore ties with its closest Asian allies. But for the summit to be successful, the three countries must put their promises into action with a two-track policy of separating mutual cooperation from thorny historical and territorial issues. If those issues ruin their relationship again, the three leaders would bring shame to themselves and the people of their countries.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 2, Page 30