South Korea, China and Japan aim to hold a summit as soon as possible amid signs of gradually improving ties, a Chinese official said Thursday.
Yang Houlan, the incoming chief of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat involving all three sides, made the remark during a reception marking the start of his two-year term, saying he is "keenly aware of the great responsibility" on his shoulders.
"Despite the twists and turns in the past three years, trilateral cooperation is gradually returning to its normal track," he said.
"The three parties are now making joint efforts to resume the trilateral summit at the earliest convenient time."
The Northeast Asian neighbors last held a summit in May 2012 before their ties began to deteriorate over history and territorial issues stemming from Japan's aggressions against its East Asian neighbors in the early 20th century.
All three sides, however, have recently shown a commitment to improving their ties with a forward-looking approach.
In March, the three countries' foreign ministers agreed to push for a trilateral summit as soon as possible. South Korea, as the current chair of trilateral cooperation, has expressed hope of hosting the summit before the end of the year.
"I believe the summit will inject strong impetus into trilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas," said Yang, a former ambassador for Korean Peninsula affairs at China's foreign ministry. "Political mutual trust will be reinforced, FTA negotiations may speed up, and social cultural exchanges become more active."
The new secretary-general pledged to do his best with his colleagues to provide all the necessary support to the governments of the three countries.
He has previously served as Beijing's top envoy to Afghanistan, Nepal and Myanmar, and is due to replace outgoing Secretary-General Shigeo Iwatani on Sept. 1.