The head of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS) said Wednesday that there may be a possibility for the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea to hold a meeting during the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit next week. The Northeast Asian nations have been in territorial disputes, with historical issues adding fuel to the neighbours’ peevish ties, causing leaders of respective nations from holding meetings.
“Maybe there’s a possibility of [holding the trilateral summit], so I should not exclude the possibility,” TCS Secretary-General Shigeo Iwatani said during a press conference. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to have its 23rd Summit and Related Summits in Brunei on October 9 and 10. Besides the 10 members of ASEAN, the three Northeast Asian neighbours – China, Japan, and South Korea – are also attending the summit. Iwatani, who is TCS’ new chief, also said that the ASEAN Summit next week will be “the first opportunity for the three leaders to meet.”
The Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat was established in Seoul two years ago “to promote peace and common prosperity among the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.” With the growing tensions in the northern region, the organization is quite far from its purpose. Iwatani admits that “bilateral relationships are going through some difficulties,” but he reminded that their situation is not something new to the neighbours. “There are always ups and downs. Hopefully in the very short period of time, they can overcome this kind of difficulties.”
Although Iwatani is keen to comment on the possibility of a trilateral summit, TCS Vice-Secretary General Chen Feng declined to make any comment. “Currently I’m not in the position to speak on behalf of the Chinese government,” Feng said. Even so, Feng suggested that the summit between the neighbours is possible. “I think the date of the trilateral summit will be decided by the three parties. As the secretariat, we will prepare for the convening of the summit, and we will be ready at any time.” The Chinese official also noted that they “can move quickly to promote all the outcome and results to provide administrative support and give out proposals” on their part when the proposal for a trilateral summit is finalized.