Japan, China, S.Korea foreign ministers to meet

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Tokyo (AFP): The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea will meet this week in Tokyo, with their countries at odds over territorial disputes and a US missile defence system.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, China’s Wang Yi and South Korea’s Yun Byung-Se will have dinner Tuesday before formal talks on Wednesday, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement Monday.

They “will discuss trilateral cooperation as well as regional and global issues”, it said.

Among those issues are likely to be North Korea.

Japan and South Korea regularly condemn Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile development, but feel frustrated by what they see as a lack of pressure on the country by China, its longtime ally and economic lifeline.

The talks also come as Sino-Japanese tensions over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea rose this month, while China and South Korea have sparred over the planned deployment in the latter country of a US anti-missile system.

Japan and China are locked in a long-running dispute over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, with tensions over them a frequent hindrance to closer ties.

Tokyo has lodged more than 30 protests through diplomatic channels since August 5, saying there have been about 30 intrusions by Chinese vessels into its territorial waters.

Separately, China has complained about the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, arguing the missile shield goes against its own national security interests and warning it will heighten regional tension.

South Korea, wary of offending key trade partner China, had wavered on its introduction, but went ahead in the face of North Korea’s continued missile development.

The Japan-South Korea relationship is also prone to periodic tension.

A maritime dispute resurfaced on Monday last week when 10 South Korean lawmakers visited islets controlled by Seoul but claimed by Japan.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on the same day, however, called for a “future-oriented” relationship with Tokyo.

Bilateral meetings between Kishida and his Chinese and South Korean counterparts are being arranged, though nothing is set, a Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP.

The foreign ministerial meeting is expected to be followed later this year by a trilateral summit. The leaders of the three countries met in November last year in South Korea.

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