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Trilateral cooperation with China, Japan at crossroads of 'leap or stagnation': vice FM

By Yonhap

Published : April 27, 2021 - 14:39

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Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon speaks during the International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation 2021, held to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Seoul-based Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, a cooperation office among South Korea, Japan and China set up to improve relations and boost exchanges, on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon speaks during the International Forum for Trilateral Cooperation 2021, held to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Seoul-based Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, a cooperation office among South Korea, Japan and China set up to improve relations and boost exchanges, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Trilateral cooperation among South Korea, China and Japan is at a "crossroads between a leap or stagnation," Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon said Tuesday, hoping that the neighboring countries will work together to move their relationships forward.

Choi made the remark during an event to mark the founding of the Seoul-based Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat set up by the three countries to facilitate cooperation in a region long plagued by tensions over history and other thorny issues.

"We're facing challenges like the global pandemic, climate change and trade protectionism. ... We're at a crossroads of a leap or stagnation in terms of our trilateral cooperation," Choi said during a forum held to mark the secretariat's 10th anniversary.

"The three-way cooperation can play a vital role as a driving force to world peace and prosperity. ... It depends on our choice of which direction to take," he said. "I hope our three countries won't have regrets over their choices after many years have passed."

Choi pointed out that the cooperation secretariat has played a pivotal role as a bridge to the three countries' relations since its launch a decade ago despite changing diplomatic situations.

"I hope it will be a milestone so that we can proudly look back on the path we have walked together," he added.

Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi and Chinese Ambassador Xing Haiming also attended Tuesday's forum.

Aiboshi listed the environment, climate change and aging societies as three key areas where the countries can work together, noting there is no disagreement on the importance of cooperation, especially people-to-people exchanges at private levels.

"Steady preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and the Paralympics are under way, and we would like to deliver the baton we received from PyeongChang in 2018 to Beijing in 2022," Aiboshi said, referring to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea.

Noting the historical similarities shared by the three, Xing stressed the need for the three countries to "strengthen strategic dialogue based on mutual respect," so as to "further deepen the trust and relations and play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability."

The secretariat was established in 2011 at then South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's proposal to improve relations and bolster exchanges between the three countries.

It is also charged with helping organize a trilateral summit. The most recent summit, the eighth of its kind, among the three countries was held in the Chinese city of Chengdu in 2019.

Seoul was to be the host for last year's ninth summit, but it was canceled amid coronavirus concerns and frosty Seoul-Tokyo ties over a prolonged row stemming from colonial-era issues. (Yonhap)