Leaders from the three countries held their first three-way summit in more than two years, demonstrating a spirit of cooperation despite continuing differences over North Korea and other issues. While short on specifics, the show of unity, especially ahead of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s expected talks with President Donald Trump, was seen as a major success.
It was extremely significant that Japan, China and South Korea reaffirmed the importance of their cooperation ahead of a U.S.-North Korea meeting. The agreements came at the first summit for the Northeast Asian neighbors after a hiatus of more than two years, bringing together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The meeting comes amid a flurry of developments on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Moon on April 27 and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, in a surprise visit to the Chinese coastal city of Dalian. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, early Wednesday to finalize details of a summit planned between Trump and Kim.
The three countries agreed on promoting regional free trade, another hot-button issue challenging their region in the face of Trump’s America-first trade policy. Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said the three leaders will work toward two free trade agreements — a pact among themselves and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Southeast Asian nations.