Moon to meet Li, Abe in China on Dec. 24

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Moon to meet Li, Abe in China on Dec. 24

President Moon Jae-in will visit China over Dec. 23 and 24 for a trilateral summit to tackle various regional and Korean Peninsula issues with Chinese and Japanese leaders, announced the Blue House on Tuesday.

Moon, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet in Chengdu in Sichuan Province, southwestern China, for the eighth Korea-China-Japan trilateral summit on Dec. 24.

Ko Min-jung, spokesperson of the Blue House, said in a briefing, “Through the summit, President Moon plans to evaluate the situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss ways for the three countries to cooperate toward the complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace.”

The summit comes amid North Korea’s increased provocations as denuclearization talks with the United States continue to be deadlocked and a year-end deadline quickly approaches.

Ko said that the leaders are expected to “focus on measures for substantive cooperation between the three countries” and “hold in-depth discussions on key issues on Northeast Asia and the region, as well as the global situation.”

Moon is also expected to hold bilateral talks with Abe on the sidelines of the trilateral meeting, which would be an opportunity to address ongoing issues between the two nations amid frayed ties over the wartime forced labor issue and trade restrictions.

Moon and Abe previously held a bilateral summit in September last year on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. They had a brief impromptu meeting in early November on the sidelines of Asean meetings held in Bangkok.

Tokyo has protested Korea’s Supreme Court rulings last year ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to individual Korean victims of forced labor during World War II.

Last month, Seoul made an eleventh-hour decision to conditionally extend the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Tokyo which would have otherwise expired as of Nov. 23. In early August, the Blue House announced its decision to terminate the bilateral intelligence-sharing pact in response to Japan’s export restriction measures and the removal of Korea from its so-called white list of trusted trading partners.

However, the fundamental issues between the two countries have yet to be ironed out as Seoul calls for Tokyo to withdraw its export restrictions. Japan maintains that compensation issues were settled through a 1965 claims agreement and has called for a solution to the forced labor issue first.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, who visited Tokyo in early November, has been pushing for a so-called one-plus-one bill to establish a foundation comprised of voluntary contributions from the companies and people of the two countries to resolve the forced labor compensation issue.

Moon may also meet separately with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a visit to Seoul last week for the first time in five years, a trip which comes as the two countries have been mending relations since the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system to Korea in 2017. The deployment had been strongly protested by Beijing as a threat to its strategic interests and resulted in economic retaliatory measures on Korea. The two countries got relations back on track in October 2017, as Seoul assuaged Beijing’s security concerns, pledging not to deploy additional Thaad batteries, not to partake in the U.S.-led missile defense system and not to join in a trilateral security alliance with the United States and Japan.

Moon and Xi were unable to meet in Chile last month after an APEC summit was canceled.

A key Blue House official told reporters that “bilateral talks are currently being coordinated” and will be confirmed when they are finalized.

The Korea-China-Japan trilateral cooperation mechanism dates back to 2000 and marks its 20th anniversary next year. The trilateral leaders’ summit has been held annually since 2008, with the three countries taking turns as host. However, there was a two-year hiatus after the summit in May 2012 amid soured regional relations especially as Korea and China were angered by Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit in December 2013 to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors Class A war criminals from World War II and is seen as glorifying Japan’s past military aggressions. The trilateral summit resumed in Seoul in November 2015.

Last year’s trilateral summit was hosted in Tokyo on May 9 and the three leaders adopted a joint declaration.

Ko said, “We look forward to this summit being a venue to review the outcome of the cooperation between the three countries over the past 20 years, and for useful and constructive discussions on the future direction for progress in the future.”

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