China welcomes closer trilateral ties

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am

Links with Tokyo and Seoul improving, says foreign minister

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing yesterday hailed strengthening ties between China, Japan and South Korea, urging the three nations to create a new era in co-operation.

Mr Li's comments came after meetings in Cebu with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts ahead of this weekend's rescheduled Asean and East Asian summits.

'Relations between the three countries are showing fresh impetus for development,' Mr Li said after meeting Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Katsuhito Asano and South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon for more than an hour. 'We should seize this favourable period to strive to develop a new outlook of co-operation between the three countries.'

North Korea's nuclear test dominated talks, the first such trilateral meeting since the thaw in Sino-Japanese relations that have followed Shinzo Abe taking office as Japan's prime minister.

The three agreed to boost co-ordinated efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The meeting comes amid reports that Pyongyang is preparing for a second test.

They called for a swift resumption of a new round of six-party talks geared to forcing North Korea to stick to its September 2005 agreement to denuclearise.

North Korea returned to talks with China, South Korea, the US, Russia and Japan in Beijing last month but the meeting ended with little clear progress.

Mr Song described North Korea's 'immediate implementation' of the 2005 agreement as the 'most desirable outcome'.

He proposed that the three-way meeting become an annual event, offering to host the first regular session in Seoul. No further details have yet emerged.

Ongoing fears over North Korea and the implementation of United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang are expected to dominate further talks this weekend as regional leaders arrive in Cebu.

The 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet today before joining the leaders of China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand for the second East Asia Summit.

'We've got to make sure of a strong, united stand on North Korea,' one Japanese official said. 'A nuclear North Korea puts at risk all the progress being made in other areas.'

The Asean leaders are expected to finalise tougher anti-terrorism co-operation and formalise a plan to create a fully open economic union by 2015. They are also expected to confirm a draft charter to turn the loose, consensus grouping into a European Union-style body.

The terrorism agreement has the potential to improve extradition procedures across the region and make it easier to track funds and suspects - efforts which previously often sunk amid cross-border suspicions and old bureaucratic tensions. The Asean grouping is home to several violent Muslim insurgencies and terrorist organisations.

'We will make sure this community is more secure and resistant to terror threats,' said host Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo.

The summits were aborted last month amid a passing typhoon and official warnings of impending terrorist attacks in Cebu by the US, Britain, Australia and Canada. The warnings remain but the Philippine government is insisting Cebu is safe. Arriving Asean leaders were last night met by an unprecedented show of military and police force.

Earlier this week, foreign envoys had expressed concern at sloppy security procedures on the ground.