11.06.2024 Author: Vladimir Terehov

Some events that arose immediately after the resumption of the China-Japan-South Korea negotiation platform

China Japan Republic of Korea Seoul

After more than a 3-year hiatus, Seoul hosted the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit on May 26-27, which became a remarkable event in the overall transformation process taking place in East Asia. This event organically fit into a series of previous and subsequent, equally significant, developments occurring in this region.

A number of events previously covered by NEO, which were held in Seoul on May 26-27 within the framework of the renewed China-Japan-South Korea negotiation platform, became a noticeable element of the political puzzle that is taking shape in the Indo-Pacific region, where the focus of the current stage of the “Great Global Game” is shifting. If all three participants in this negotiation platform move from words (“we are for all good and against all bad”) to action, it could play an important role in the (hypothetical) process of improving the overall political climate both in the East Asia subregion and in the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.

However, the very nature of the events held in Seoul, as well as a number of subsequent events, have not yet made a significant contribution to the formation of optimistic expectations. But before we go further and talk about some of these events, let’s turn our attention to the Russian President’s very significant trip to China ten days before the Seoul events.

Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China 

Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China, during which he held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, has already become the topic of widespread public discussion. This is why the author thinks it would be appropriate to express his general assessment of the visit’s outcome.

The assessment merely confirms the building of back-to-back political and strategic cooperation, which seems to be the most optimal for both sides in the present conditions. This position will make both sides feel safe about “their backs,” giving them freedom to act in the specific context of the escalating situation in the eastern direction for China and in the western direction for Russia. Providing mutual assistance in the volumes and areas that each side considers acceptable in terms of national interests.

As for China, the above-mentioned “specifics”, as discussed in NEO, were once again outlined during those Seoul events.

In the case of Russia, the prospect of turning the conflict in Ukraine into a “Ukrainian theater of military operations” with a very conditional, but still “Europe” is becoming increasingly clear. Judging by recent events, the planners of the first two European wars are close to provoking a third war, which will likely lead to the disappearance of Europe. However, in such a short period of time, Europe has transformed into its opposite. It has apparently exhausted the potential for positive development.

This, in turn (and inevitably), should mean the completion of the “European project” launched somewhere in the 70s in the USSR. And, therefore, the often-mentioned project of reconstruction of the regional “Ulus of Jochi”, as an essential element of the Great Mongol Empire of a new format, looks more realistic and promising. With such glorious names as Jebe Noyon, Subudai-bahtatur and even Batu Khan, which are also part of Russian history (long, complex and contradictory).

The Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and the South Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs reported on the Seoul negotiations during their visit to Washington 

The events in Seoul had not yet ended when information appeared about the upcoming visit of the Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and the South Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs to Washington, where their American colleague Kurt Campbell was waiting for them. The corresponding State Department statement, which contained general words and emphasized the “historical significance” of the US-Japan-South Korea summit held last August, did not mention the negotiations in Seoul.

However, China had no doubt that both of the mentioned partners of Mr. Campbell were eager to report its outcome to their “big brother”. Chinese experts regarded this as a demonstration of Washington’s control over the behavior of Tokyo and Seoul in the foreign policy arena, and the latter pretended that “they did not even have such thoughts” regarding the first mentioned.

On May 31, State Department spokesperson M. Miller, commenting on the events in which the three “Vice Ministers” participated in Washington, reproduced (almost verbatim) all those phrases that were mentioned in the State Department statement about the upcoming meeting four days earlier.

A senior CCP official visited Tokyo 

It should be noted that certain signs of “freethinking” observed in the behavior of both Seoul and Tokyo in relation to their “big brother”. NEO has previously covered a remarkable mid-May trip of 20 “senior PLA officers” to Japan.

No joke – later that month, the senior CCP official visited Tokyo, where he held talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi. The party, which is considered by the same “big brother” almost as a devil incarnate. Congress even created a special committee to fight the CCP. This, however, does not prevent the US government from maintaining various types of contacts with the “Chinese communists”.

A major outcome of the above-mentioned trip to Japan by Liu Jianchao, Head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, was an agreement to restart the bilateral inter-party platform, which last met back in 2018.

But, of course, Tokyo is fully aware of the “boundaries” when maintaining contacts with Beijing. In particular, it is reported that F. Kishida blocked the inclusion of a thesis on the development of supply chains in the text of the Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the China-Japan-South Korea Summit. Of course, he did this in the context of Washington moving the issue of excluding Beijing from international supply chains in the field of advanced technologies to the center of the fight with the latter.

Japan at the European Schuman Forum 

It is quite possible that certain differences may arise in the approaches of Washington and Tokyo in their European policy. Unlike the first, the second views Europe as a whole (but primarily the United Kingdom) not as a competitor, but as a very promising partner, for influence over which, however, it will have to compete with China. Some aspects of this competition could be observed in early May during successive visits to Europe by Japanese Prime Minister F. Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

As for Europe itself (if we can even talk about the existence of such an actor in the international arena), the Brussels bureaucracy, trying to position itself as its plenipotentiary representative, is influenced by the divergent interests of truly significant players, which undoubtedly include China and Japan. And if the EU is connected with China by a gigantic in volume, but very contradictory in content, sphere of trade and economic relations, Japan is increasingly seen as a partner in security issues.

In this regard, the appearance of Japanese representatives as one of the main participants at the second Schuman Security Forum, held on May 28-29 in Brussels, attracted attention. This “Forum”, organized in March last year mainly under the influence of events in Ukraine, became one of the manifestations of the EU’s claims to autonomy in the field of defense, which extend far beyond the borders of Europe itself and, in particular, include the “Global South”, India and, apparently, Japan to an increasing extent.

The role of the latter in the EU’s defense policy in connection with the upcoming Schuman Security Forum was discussed in an extensive interview of one of the leading Japanese newspapers, Yomiuri Shimbun, with the Ambassador of this organization in Japan.

Ongoing US-China contacts 

It should be noted that China did not stop maintaining various types of contacts with the United States. Let me repeat, however, that Beijing commented with a large portion of annoyance on the fact that both recent interlocutors in Seoul immediately rushed to report back to their overseas “dad” as guilty kids. From which the command could well have arrived: “Ok, douches, drop your pants, lie down on the benches and turn you know what upwards.” In any case, judging by the photo, apparently taken after the “conversation” with the visiting guests from Japan and South Korea, Deputy Secretary of State K. Campbell, who hosted them, was very angry.

And yet, just two days later, one of the deputies of the PRC Foreign Ministry held negotiations with him in Washington. At the same time, I am quite confident that the experienced diplomat K. Campbell, an undoubted specialist in the affairs of the Indo-Pacific region (who, mainly for this reason, occupied an extremely important post in the US foreign policy management system at the beginning of this year), did not allow himself to display such emotions.

However, the bilateral meeting of defense ministers that took place on May 31 in Singapore on the sidelines of the next Shangri-La Dialogue, deserves special attention. This last event requires a separate comment as a whole.


Vladimir Terekhov, expert on Asia-Pacific issues, especially for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

Related articles: