China, Japan, South Korea trilateral meet-What does it mean for world?

| Updated: 28 May, 2024 5:15 pm IST

NEW DELHI: China, Japan, and South Korea, three Asian giants, held their first trilateral meeting in the last 4 years. This meeting has been organized at a time when the world is witnessing two major conflicts namely, Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Gaza war. At a time, when the position of the US as a self-acclaimed superpower of the world is diminishing due to its varying stands, this meeting may have a significant impact on the global world order and India.

With Japan and South Korea being allies of the United States, China’s meeting with these countries may help influence them to downsize their partnership with the USA. China has already raised concerns in the wake of Japan and South Korea expanding their military drills with the USA.

This meeting comes on the heels of North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite by early next week, which in all probability may be a spy satellite. The UN has banned any satellite tests by North Korea. Japan and South Korea urged North Korea to withdraw its satellite launch, otherwise, stern international action would be taken, China refused to directly condemn the launch, demanding the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula (which elicited a strong response from North Korea). Instead, it offered the promotion of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula through a political resolution.

While these three countries may be meeting for better cooperation amidst the turmoil in global world order, greater fissures exist between South Korea, Japan on one side and China on the other.

On one hand, both South Korea and Japan need China’s support in countering their allies in terms of discouraging North Korea’s missile launches and avoiding a confrontation. On the other hand, there’s the issue of South Korea and Japan protesting against China’s assertion of military control in the South China Sea, human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, stifling the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and China’s authoritative actions against Taiwan.

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China’s premier Li Qiang, in the latest trilateral meeting, refrained from giving a direct response and said, “China, Japan, and South Korea should appropriately handle sensitive issues and points of difference, and take care of each other’s core interests and major concerns.”

Discreet Cold War

South Korea’s claims of North Korea receiving technical help from Russia for its satellite launch last year in exchange for sending weapons to Russia for the Ukraine war, points towards the possibility of a discreet Cold War between the US and Russia. With China, Russia, and North Korea coming closer, this has increased the US worry. This may be one of the reasons why the US is warming up with Japan and South Korea, two traditional enemies.

Why may Japan be worried about it?

Japan may have significant concerns regarding the US and China. Japan doesn’t enjoy a great bilateral relationship with China, and if hypothetically the bilateral relations between the US and China improve, it’ll leave Japan in limbo. “It is necessary for Japan to strengthen its deterrence and self-defense capabilities to prevent a Taiwan contingency,” says the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. This points to a rather scary situation for Japan in case the US leaves its side.

Japan is overly dependent on the US for its military security and The recent meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in San Francisco last week for the first time in nearly a year is an indication of concern for Japan.

Japan and South Korea are US allies

Japan and South Korea have been lately increasing their cooperation with the United States to counter the danger posed by China including but not restricted to the South China Sea. This trilateral meeting between China, Japan, and South Korea, hopes to break this pattern and persuade both countries to come together and deal with the ‘Dragon Rising’.

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What’s in it for China?

Due to the continuing trade war with the US, Chinese companies have not been getting proper access to the world’s most advanced chips, many of which are produced by South Korean giants like Samsung and SK Hynix. With this trilateral meeting, China hopes to bypass US tariffs and get the chips directly from South Korea, through the proposed discussions on FTA. In turn, they can assure South Korea of persuading North Korea to limit its missile and satellite launches, a win-win situation for both.

China also aims to lure Japan and South Korea away from the US, by offering them greater access to its market. China has agreed to restart talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the three countries in the trilateral meeting held after 4 years.

China in the meeting criticized the US. It opposed any attempt to create “blocs” and instead build a multipolar world. This is aimed at the US building an Asian bloc of South Korea and Japan to counter the rise of China and eliminate their competition. China recognizes this and through this meeting hopes to enhance cultural and bilateral ties with both Japan and South Korea, countering the US’s influence.

What does it mean for India?

Washington has always used India as a pawn in its larger scheme of things to counter China. By enhancing ties with South Korea and Japan, the US aims to not only deter the growth of China but also ensure that India doesn’t emerge as a significant center of power in Asia.

In this neo-Cold War, India stands to lose some ground literally and figuratively considering it has border disputes with the aggressive Asian giant. Russia supporting North Korea’s satellite launch also doesn’t bode well for India, especially with the ‘Bear’ being a close friend of India geopolitically. India has in recent years sought to create an Asian bloc that supports the geopolitical interests of the region with the rising economy taking it into the 22nd century, on par with the other Asian giants.

Arindam Mukherjee, geopolitical analyst and author says, “India has strong bilateral relations with both Japan and South Korea. China’s relations through trilateral meet is to build relations on the case-to-case basis. It won’t affect India’s relation with both the nations. The situation is going to be same for at least next 20-25 years. It won’t affect India until unless China is able to form a new world order, which I don’t see happening in the near future.”


Jayant Singh is a Multimedia Journalist. He is currently an intern with The New Indian. His interests include sports news, geopolitics, and human interest features.

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