A trilateral summit with Japan and China, which has been on hold since 2019, could take place early next year, a senior official from the South Korean president's office said Monday.
The foreign ministers of South Korea, Japan and China on Sunday reaffirmed their ongoing commitment to expedite efforts to hold a trilateral summit at the earliest convenient time. However, the three ministers did not specify a specific time frame for the summit following a ministerial meeting in Busan, which was widely anticipated to result in the setting of a date.
"In the present circumstances, I believe it may be possible to host a trilateral meeting in our country early next year or within the first half of next year," said Kim Tae-hyo, South Korea's first deputy national security adviser, in a televised interview with public broadcaster KBS on Monday.
Kim explained that it would require an additional two or three months for the three-way summit to take place following the foreign ministerial meeting.
"Given that the foreign ministers' meeting occurred only at the end of November, it will take a few additional months to establish the agenda, coordinate and engage in discussions for a joint statement," explained Kim.
The trilateral agreement to conduct an annual summit was established in 2008 with the aim of fostering regional cooperation. Since its inception, the trilateral summit involving South Korea, Japan and China has been convened eight times, with the most recent meeting held in Chengdu, China, in December 2019.
The ninth summit is slated to be hosted by South Korea. The rotation sequence for hosting has adhered to the order of Japan, China and then Korea.
Kim expressed optimism about the resumption of leader-to-leader diplomacy among the three countries, which are culturally, economically and geographically interconnected.
"South Korea, China and Japan (have shown) their intent to initiate discussions and collaboration, particularly in the fields of economy, society, culture, people-to-people exchanges and climate change."
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin said Sunday that holding the summit would be the key to “promptly restore and normalize trilateral cooperation.”
The status of trilateral cooperation has faced challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the US-China rivalry and strained relations between South Korea and Japan.
The collective land area of these three countries comprises 7 percent of the world's landmass, yet they constitute 20 percent of the global population and contribute 25 percent to the world's total gross domestic product. In 2018, people-to-people exchanges among these nations exceeded 30 million people, and trade volume reached $780 billion in 2022.