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Chinese Premier Li Qiang arrived in Seoul for a trilateral summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, marking their first three-way talks in over four years. The initiative to hold an annual summit starting in 2008 was disrupted by bilateral feuds and the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last trilateral summit occurring in late 2019. The leaders are expected to adopt a joint statement encompassing six areas including the economy, trade, science, technology, people-to-people exchanges, and health.

President Yoon is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Premier Li and Prime Minister Kishida before the three leaders meet on Monday for the trilateral summit. During separate meetings, Kishida is likely to raise concerns about a Chinese ban on Japanese seafood imports and China’s view on Taiwan. South Korea and Japan have been working on improving their strained relationship while strengthening their trilateral security partnership with the United States amidst growing competition with China.

Ahead of the summit, China warned that efforts by the US to deepen ties with South Korea and Japan could increase tensions in the region. Additionally, Seoul and Tokyo have cautioned against any attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. China criticized South Korean and Japanese lawmakers for attending Taiwan President Lai Ching-te’s inauguration, indicating underlying tensions between the countries on issues related to Taiwan.

While the summit may not result in significant breakthroughs on sensitive topics such as Taiwan, officials and diplomats expect progress in areas of practical cooperation such as people-to-people exchanges and consular matters. The leaders are focused on enhancing regional cooperation in various sectors, despite longstanding historical disputes and geopolitical tensions. The trilateral summit serves as an opportunity for the three countries to address common challenges and explore avenues for collaboration in key areas impacting the region.

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