China is willing to link its Belt and Road Initiative with the trade and investment blueprints of Japan and the Republic of Korea, said Cao Wenlian, director general of International Cooperation Center of China's National Development and Reform Commission. Cao spoke in Tokyo on Monday.
China is ready to work with the two Asian neighbors on a strategy that is in the interest of all three, Cao said. He was attending the first forum on industrial capacity cooperation between the three.
Officials and businesspeople from China, Japan and South Korea agreed that East Asia needs to cooperate beyond the region. With mutually complementary economies, the three contribute 70 percent of Asia's gross domestic product and 36 percent of the world's GDP.
Cao said the three countries' trade volumes totaled $625.7 billion in 2015. The accumulated investment from Japan, which is China's largest source of foreign investment capital, hit $103 billion by the end of 2015. South Korea is China's fourth-largest investor.
Geopolitical issues have been a stumbling block to substantial cooperation in East Asia, said Yang Xiaoping, vice-chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group, a Thailand-based conglomerate. "The century of Asia would dawn if China, Japan and the ROK had substantive cooperation," Yang said.
Jung Whan Woo, a research fellow with the ROK's Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, said East Asia should upgrade the quality and scale of their cooperation.
Jung said it is of great importance for the three countries to find ways to work together in other markets, adding that China's Belt and Road Initiative presents an opportunity for Japan and South Korea to pursue further development abroad.
"I'm confident in China's development, which is running in a more ideal direction," Jung said.
Iwao Okamoto, president of the Japan-China Economic Association, called for establishing a mechanism for China-Japan-South Korean cooperation in other markets as soon as possible. Negotiations on a free trade agreement among the three countries and the proposed pan-Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership should be accelerated, Okamoto said.
China has proposed cooperation in other markets using the Belt and Road Initiative and South Korea's Eurasia Initiative.