China Reaches Out to Long-Time U.S. Allies South Korea, Japan

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China’s top diplomat wound down a trip to Japan and South Korea aimed at boosting ties with the U.S. allies, as the region prepares for the Trump administration to end.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wang Yi and South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha reached a 10-point consensus in talks on Thursday that included strengthening cooperation on pandemic controls and looking at expanding fast-track travel between the two countries.

President Donald Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden has thrown a new element of uncertainty into relations that U.S. allies Japan and South Korea have with China, the top trading partner for both countries as well as a key security risk. Biden called the leaders of Japan and South Korea this month to reassure them on U.S. alliance commitments.

In his visit to Japan earlier this week, Wang and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi reached an agreement in which Tokyo would lift some virus-related travel restrictions by the end of the month. The two sides also restated their differences over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

For more on regional relations:
  • Japan, China Agree to Restart Two-way Travel by End November
  • Australia Seeks to Build Defense Ties to Counter China Squeeze
  • How a Few Tiny Islands Put Japan and China in Dispute: QuickTake
  • Pompeo Calls for United ‘Quad’ Bloc on China in Virus Crisis

The Wang visit comes shortly after Trump’s national security adviservisited the region, including Japan. The U.S., Japan, India and Australia have stepped up activities in a grouping known as the Quad, which is seen as countering Chinese expansionism.

Here are more details of the China-South Korea consensus reached in Seoul:

  • Establish a committee to develop bilateral ties as the two mark the 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations
  • Launch a diplomatic and security dialogue on maritime affairs
  • Reach second phase on their bilateral free trade agreement at an early date
  • Advance a political settlement for the Korean Peninsula divide
  • Work together to make sure RCEP regional trade deal takes effect at an early date

— With assistance by Jeong-Ho Lee, Jing Li, and Karen Leigh

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