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Monday, August 22, 2016, 15:49

Three-way meeting in Tokyo called 'a victory'

By Zhang Yunbi

Foreign ministers from China, Japan, ROK to gather despite recent dark clouds over relations.

The last-minute settlement of the schedule for the annual China-Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting has been called "a victory" in light of new frictions that have arisen since the previous meeting in March 2015.

All three foreign ministers will meet on Wednesday in Tokyo to chart a course of cooperation and discuss major regional and global issues, it was announced on Monday.

On Sunday, a deputy-minister-level meeting was held in preparation for the annual gathering, but the dates were not finalized until Monday.

Guo Yanjun, deputy director of the Institute of Asian Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the timing of the annual ministers' meeting was "ideal" in light of the recent difficulties.

"Their plan to sit at the same table again shows there's a political will to improve ties," Guo said.

The three sides "have tried their best to keep bilateral issues away from the trilateral agenda," Guo added. "They are taking a positive attitude. And further trilateral cooperation, in return, will be helpful for resolving two-way issues."

"The trilateral foreign ministers' meeting itself is already a victory," Guo said.

The Republic of Korea's plan to deploy the US-made THAAD anti-missile system has angered Beijing, as the system's radar could cover part of China. And Japan's recent intervention in the South China Sea made an official meeting between the foreign ministers appear unlikely.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday that the three countries have held a range of key meetings and events promoting trilateral cooperation in all fields. Cooperation initiated 17 years ago has "played a constructive role" in boosting regional peace and stability, Lu said.

When asked about Beijing's hopes regarding Foreign Minister Wang Yi's trip to Tokyo, Lu said the annual trilateral meeting "has nothing to do with a bilateral official visit".

Li Xiushi, a researcher in Japanese studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said there are still many issues lingering between Beijing and Tokyo.

"Tokyo has failed to match its words with actions," Li said. "It created a flare-up of tensions in China's neighborhood."

"So far, we have observed little sincerity from Tokyo," Li said. "So when Japanese media is hyping Wang's so-called official visit to Japan, we would like to ask: What can be discussed at the table?"

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