Tokyo goes ahead with planned talks with Beijing and Seoul

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2011, 12:00am

The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will meet in Japan's central city of Kyoto today, despite an earthquake and tsunami which devastated the country's northeast and triggered a nuclear crisis.

Before the disaster, the meeting had been expected to focus on security problems on the Korean Peninsula, but analysts said the meeting would now focus on ways the three countries could work together to help Japan.

The planned two-day meeting between Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi , his Japanese counterpart Takeaki Matsumoto and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan will be cut to one day because of the earthquake, according to reports from Tokyo and Seoul.

Japanese officials said Tokyo also would use today's meeting to convey its appreciation to China and South Korea for their help in coping with the disaster as well as to ask for more assistance.

In addition, the trilateral conference will also confirm the agenda for a scheduled May summit meeting.

The meeting follows President Hu Jintao's visit to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing yesterday to pay his respects to the victims.

But analysts said they did not have high hopes for the Kyoto meeting.

'The disasters in Japan will help the three countries improve co-operation in dealing with a natural disaster or a nuclear crisis, but I don't think their talks will have any significant impact on security in northeast Asia,' Tsinghua University Sino-Japanese expert Liu Jiangyong said.

'Diplomacy is a very complex issue. It needs countries to make long-term effort and doesn't depend on a specific event.'

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply last year after a flare-up in a dispute over an island in the East China Sea.

But Beijing has set aside acrimony to extend a helping hand, shipping 20,000 tonnes of free fuel to help Japan with its shortages, sending relief supplies, a 15-member rescue team to search for survivors and other humanitarian assistance to the country.

China was the first country to get its nationals out of the disaster zones in Japan, including 5,000 Chinese staying in areas imperilled by the malfunctioning Fukushima nuclear power plant which was initially damaged by the tsunami.

The Chinese embassy in Tokyo said it had closed two centres where Chinese nationals had been asked to gather in Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures for evacuation yesterday as it was wrapping up its extraction effort in the area in northern Japan.