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China Hosts Japan, SKorea for Talks    08/21 06:12

   BEIJING (AP) -- The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea met in 
Beijing on Wednesday as they seek to encourage progress on North Korean 
denuclearization at a time of tense relations between Tokyo and Seoul over 
trade.

   In talks with Japan's Taro Kono and South Korea's Kang Kyung-wha, Chinese 
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China will work with the two countries to 
maintain multilateralism and free trade and commit to the region's stability.

   "We support Japan and South Korea in taking the chance of the trilateral 
foreign ministers meeting to have their bilateral talks," Wang said at a news 
conference following morning talks. "We hope both sides can address the 
concerns of each other, handle the disputes constructively and find a proper 
way of solving the problems."

   China is also using the trilateral meeting to reiterate its opposition to 
either Japan or South Korea playing host to new U.S. intermediate-range 
ballistic missiles that Washington says it plans to deploy to the region as 
soon as possible after leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty 
earlier this month. China has threatened to punish any country that does so, 
and Chinese state media said Wang brought up the issue in separate meetings 
with Kono and Kang on Tuesday.

   Ties between Japan and South Korea have been strained since Japan tightened 
export controls on key materials for South Korea's semiconductor industry and 
decided to downgrade the nation's trade status.

   Seoul accuses Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate for political rows 
over wartime history. The row threatens to upset economic security in Northeast 
Asia, as well as Washington's hopes for military cooperation between its two 
treaty allies.

   While Taro called for cooperation among the three despite the feud, Kang 
attacked Japan over its export controls, according to Japanese news reports. At 
the news conference, however, both sides appeared eager to downplay the dispute.

   "It is inevitable that sometimes the bilateral relations among us have some 
difficulties," Kono said. "The three of us have important responsibility for 
the stability and prosperity of the region and the whole world and the 
cooperation among us will definitely make major contributions in this regard."

   Kang said the Japan-South Korea dispute shouldn't be allowed to affect 
trilateral relations.

   "In order that the three-way cooperation can be developed in a stable way 
without being affected by the bilateral relations, we should enrich the 
contents of the exchanges among the three countries and let the people of the 
three countries feel the substantial benefit from such cooperation," Kang said.

   Despite their close economic interdependence, ties between the three have 
often been fraught over trade frictions, the role of the U.S. and lingering 
resentment over Japan's colonial legacy and World War II aggression.

   China and South Korea only recently began healing ties after Beijing exacted 
painful economic retaliation on South Korea over Seoul's decision to host a 
powerful U.S. missile defense system.

   China and Japan meanwhile are enjoying an unusually calm period in their 
often-turbulent relationship, which was at a breaking point a few years ago due 
to a dispute over East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by 
China.

   China is North Korea's most important ally and has argued that steps by 
Pyongyang depend on security assurances from Seoul and Washington.


(KR)

 
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