Trilateral summit between Korea, Japan, China unlikely this year
Kyodo News cited diplomatic sources, Monday, to report that Tokyo told Seoul late last month that it would be impossible for Suga to attend the trilateral meeting unless Seoul takes "proper" measures to deal with the ongoing row. The annual meeting was slated to be held in Seoul later this year, and the countries have been arranging detailed schedules.
Bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been in a stalemate for the past two years since the South Korean Supreme Court's October 2018 order for Japanese companies to compensate surviving South Korean victims of wartime forced labor. Tokyo protested the ruling saying all compensation issues were already settled in 1965 when the two countries signed the Treaty on Basic Relations.
According to the reports, Tokyo set a condition for Suga's participation in the trilateral summit with President Moon Jae-in and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that Seoul should guarantee that the Japanese companies' assets in Korea will not be liquidated ― a compensation process that may be taken soon following the court order.
But chances are low that Seoul would accept Japan's request as the Moon government is standing its ground that it cannot overturn a decision by the judicial branch, citing the separation of powers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it has been talking with Japan and China regarding holding the trilateral summit in Seoul before the end of this year and would continue to pursue the talks.
The trilateral meeting, alternately held in the countries every year, was held in Chengdu, China, last December. On the sidelines of the meeting, President Moon and then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held bilateral talks but failed to reach an agreement over the forced labor issue.
As Suga, who replaced Abe in mid-September, is also showing a hardline stance on historical issues with Korea, bilateral ties are likely to remain static.