Opportunity, pressure exist in China-Japan-S Korea relations

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the fourth trilateral leaders’ meeting between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in Tokyo from May 21 to May 22.

Afterward, Wen will visit Japan’s earthquake-hit areas to convey sympathy to Japanese citizens affected by the disaster on behalf of the Chinese government and encourage them to overcome the disaster and rebuild their homes. This will be unprecedented in the history of China-Japan relations.

This arrangement shows the humanitarian and friendly spirit of neighbors. Helping one another means offering help to neighbors in trouble and sharing their hardships. China will not forget that in the aftermath of the earthquake in Wenchuan of Sichuan Province in 2008, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak paid a special visit to Sichuan’s disaster areas to express his sympathy to Chinese citizens during his visit to China. The Japanese government also dispatched a rescue team to China for the first time. This effectively promoted relations between the nations.

Controlling the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, offering disaster relief and rebuilding homes is not only on top of the agenda for the Japanese government but also is the greatest concern of ordinary Japanese citizens. In the aftermath of the major earthquake in northeastern Japan on March 11, Chinese leaders sent a message of sympathy to Japan as soon as possible and the Chinese government provided Japan with disaster relief funds and materials and dispatched a rescue team to Japan in a timely manner.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also visited the Japanese embassy in Beijing to express condolences to earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan spoke with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao over the telephone, expressing his appreciation to China. Thanks to the joint efforts of both sides, China-Japan relations are on the track for improvement.

For the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral leaders meeting to be held against such a backdrop is of special significance. The three countries will exchange opinions on handling natural disasters and strengthening nuclear security cooperation and jointly explore solutions. This will help China, Japan and South Korea enhance their disaster prevention and relief capacity and ensure the safety of nuclear power stations.

Post-disaster reconstruction will become a major topic of Japan’s economic and social development over the next three to five years. The three countries can also explore a new cooperation model surrounding this topic.

Since the beginning of the year, the weak dollar and surging oil prices caused by the unrest in West Asia and North Africa have placed the three countries under considerable pressure from high currency appreciation expectations, imported inflation and protectionism. Easing international tension, curbing oil prices and promoting free trade among China, Japan and South Korea will serve the common interests of the three countries and meet their needs for sustainable development.

Peace and stability as well as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still face challenges, and certain territorial disputes among the three countries over maritime rights and interests remain unsolved. The three countries need to face difficulties squarely, adhere to peaceful multilateralism, promote the early resumption of the six-party talks, establish a necessary crisis management mechanism and properly handle the sensitive issues among themselves, so long-term peace may be achieved in Northeast Asia. In addition, they should work together to build a new regional cooperation pattern ensuring sustainable development as well as long-term peace and cooperation.

As the first year in the second decade of the 21st century, 2011 is of unique significance to the cooperation among the three countries because the foundation for continued cooperation will be laid this year. Furthermore, next year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-South Korea diplomatic relations, and the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. The leaders of the three countries need to take a strategic view at the summit and grasp historic opportunities to further promote trilateral cooperation.

(The author Liu Jiangyong is a special commentator with People’s Daily, and is also the deputy director of the Institute of Contemporary International Relations at Tsinghua University. The article is translated by People’s Daily Online)

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