TOKYO: Japan, China and South Korea now seem unlikely to hold a trilateral summit within this year, due to a Japan-South Korea dispute over the issue of wartime labor, as well as amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the moment, nothing has been decided about the next trilateral summit to be hosted by South Korea,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a press conference on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a press briefing on the same day that the South Korean government is making efforts to realize the summit within this year while consulting with the other countries concerned.
The Japanese government sees as unacceptable the South Korean Supreme Court’s ruling against Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp. on a wartime labor lawsuit in 2018.
Tokyo has repeatedly warned that if the South Korean side takes action to cash in assets seized from the Japanese company, that would cause a serious bilateral situation.
After former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped down for health reasons last month, hopes for a diplomatic thaw with Japan temporarily grew within the South Korean government. But his successor, Yoshihide Suga, inherited Abe’s diplomatic policy, dashing the South Korean hopes.
“Suga’s visit to South Korea would be on the table if the South Korean side promises not to convert (the seized Nippon Steel assets) to cash,” a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.
Besides the Japan-South Korea relations, there is growing vigilance against China in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, given China’s heavy-handed policies on Hong Kong and its government ships’ activities around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China.
“It would do no good to hold a summit meeting among Japan, China and South Korea right now,” an official of the LDP’s Foreign Affairs Division said.