FM hopes trilateral FTZ to be set up, grow into wider Asia-Pacific deal
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday urged Japan to face up to history in order to ensure smooth trilateral cooperation with China and South Korea ahead of the sixth trilateral summit in Seoul over the weekend.
Stressing the significance of the summit's restart, Wang said he hoped the long-delayed meeting could achieve positive results while "overcoming disturbances."
"Facing up to history is a precondition for creating a better future," Wang said at a seminar in Beijing, ahead of the meeting that is expected to end a diplomatic deadlock caused by historical and territorial disputes.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will attend the summit on the sidelines of his official visit to South Korea from Saturday to Monday. It will be Li's first visit to South Korea as premier and the first visit to the country by a Chinese premier in five years.
The three sides will discuss pragmatic cooperation and exchange ideas over regional and international affairs, the foreign ministry said.
The annual summit was first held in 2008, but has not taken place for three years.
"Historical disputes are inevitable problems for China, Japan and South Korea. We hope Japan sincerely reflects upon its past mistakes and makes a clean break from its disgraceful history so that it can work with China and South Korea to get trilateral cooperation back on track," Wang said.
Current and former officials as well as scholars from China, Japan and South Korea attended the China-Japan-South Korea Seminar on Tuesday.
Pinpoint core issues
Yang Bojiang, deputy director of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Wang's words are not a warning to Japan but pinpointed the core issue that has hindered trilateral ties.
"Wang has pointed out the key weakness among the trilateral relationship of China, Japan and South Korea. Facing up to history is fundamental and crucial to resume cooperation among the three countries," Yang told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Without Japan admitting the past and showing sincerity in repentance, cooperation among the three nations can never be real, and stable, peaceful development could never be achieved in East Asia, Xu Liping, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Relations between Japan and China became tense since Japan "nationalized" the disputed Diaoyu Islands in September 2012 and continuously attempted to whitewash its conduct during World War II.
Japan's refusal to do more to compensate Korean women forced into prostitution in Japanese brothels during World War II also chilled its relations with South Korea.
Xu said the seminar and the upcoming trilateral summit will put pressure on Japan to respond to the issues. Japan may be put in an unfavorable position if it insists on not changing its attitude toward history, as the economic interests of the three are closely intertwined.
Yu Shaohua, a North Korean studies expert from the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that the meeting shows that the three nations are willing to rebuild trust and bonding and to cooperate with each other despite controversies. It is likely that these controversies, including the historical disputes, can be solved after the three resume cooperation.
"Historical disputes are the biggest obstacle for this trilateral relationship, but it's not insurmountable. It largely depends on Japan's attitude and in fact it's an easier problem to deal with compared to territorial disputes," she said.
The foreign ministry said Monday that China-Japan and South Korea-Japan ties have been warming up since late last year. A series of ministerial-level meetings have been held on trade, culture, tourism and environmental cooperation.
Wang on Tuesday said China hopes a free trade zone among China, South Korea and Japan could be established as soon as possible to develop into an Asia-Pacific free trade zone.
Analysts said it is likely that the regional economy will be boosted if projects such as nuclear power, high-speed rail and construction machinery could be discussed.
"Since the world economy is shifting to the Asia-Pacific, cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea will have a major impact on regional economic development, and the region will see rapid economic growth," Xu said.
Yang said more cooperation in East Asia is expected, since the trilateral summit will have a positive impact on the regional development atmosphere.