Negotiators from South Korea, China and Japan met in Beijing on Monday for a fifth round of talks on a trilateral free-trade agreement, a Seoul delegate said, setting aside diplomatic tensions between Japan and the two Asian neighbors over their shared history.
South Korea's chief negotiator, Assistant Commerce Minister Woo Tae-hee, kicked off the talks at a hotel in Beijing by shaking hands and exchanging greetings with China's assistant commerce minister, Wang Shouwen, and Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Yasumasa Nagamine, the delegate said.
"The atmosphere was amicable," the delegate who attended the closed-door talks said on condition of anonymity, declining to elaborate on the prospects for the meeting.
China's commerce ministry said in a statement that negotiators from the three nations would work hard to narrow gaps on how to reduce barriers in trade of goods, services and investment during this week's round.
South Korea, China and Japan are "eagerly looking forward to completing the negotiations as soon as possible," the Chinese ministry said in the brief statement posted on its website on Monday afternoon.
Since launching the talks in late 2012, the three Asian nations have so far reported little progress toward a deal that, if successful, would create one of the world's biggest economic blocs.
During the fourth round held in March in Seoul, the three nations even failed to agree on the broader "modalities" of how to eliminate tariffs and which items should be excluded from a deal, according to Seoul officials.
Negotiations are expected to focus on how to liberalize three-way trade in 15 areas, including goods, services, intellectual property rights and electronic commerce during the fifth round, which will end Friday, the Seoul delegate said.
South Korea, China and Japan, which are major trading partners, account for about 20 percent of global gross domestic product.
Diplomatic tensions between China and Japan run deep because of competing claims over islands in the East China Sea. Relations between Seoul and Tokyo also remain frayed over Japan's unrepentant attitude over its wartime atrocities, including the sexual enslavement of women by the Japanese military during World War II. (Yonhap)