Trilateral Summit of China, Japan, and South Korea: Key Takeaways and Implications

trilateral summit
trilateral summit

A trilateral summit among China, Japan, and South Korea has addressed regional stability, economic cooperation, supply chain resilience, and North Korea’s nuclear threat.

In the important geopolitical development, the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea met in the South Korean capital of Seoul for a summit—the first trilateral one since December 2019. The meeting featured the Chinese Premier, Li Qiang, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in what was described as a critical step toward addressing regional and global challenges that had intensified in the past two years. Here are five key aspects and implications of this summit:

1.Unstable Global World Order

The summit underlines China’s strategic intention to hold top-level dialogues with US allies South Korea and Japan amidst a turbulent global order. The international community is currently contending with many conflicts simultaneously, from the Russia-Ukraine war to tensions in the Middle East. This trilateral meeting foretells a likely movement toward cooperative diplomacy within East Asia aimed at easing regional crises and ensuring stability.

Particularly remarkable is China’s engagement given its complicated relationship with both Japan and South Korea. China has had, among other things, territorial and wartime history disputes with Japan, and differences with South Korea regarding the latter’s alliance with the United States and the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system. In initiating this summit, China may be attempting to reset its regional strategy, easing friction and laying a basis for future collaboration.

2.Trade and Supply Chain Stability

The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing geopolitical conflicts have caused huge disruptions to global supply chains. The trilateral summit has focused on these issues and emphasized the creation of robust trade relations and secure supply chains. In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with its effects and the reverberations of the Russia-Ukraine war and other regional conflicts, the vulnerability of global trade networks was exposed.

China, Japan, and South Korea are critical players in global manufacturing and technology. Further, their cooperation would mean increased economic resilience and stability in supply chains. This cooperation is not only essential for their economies but also for the large global market dependent on East Asian manufacturing and technology sectors.

3.South China Sea Tensions

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the summit about China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea. It is a major point of contention, with China claiming vast areas of waters, while its extensive territorial claims coupled with the building of military facilities on disputed islands have been seen as raising alarm among neighboring countries and the international community as a whole.

The summit provided Japan and South Korea with the opportunity to raise their concerns face-to-face with China. Though it is not known whether any tangible resolution was fixed, the dialogue itself represents the endeavortoward a solution to these maritime disputes. Further discussions and diplomatic maneuvers would be required to manage tensions and avoid possible conflicts around this strategically important region.

4.North Korea’s Nuclear Program

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions formed the centerpiece of the discussion. The countries of Japan and South Korea have been concerned for a long time about the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and its testing of missiles. So is the United States, the prime ally for the two countries.

China, being the closest ally and economic lifeline for North Korea, plays a crucial role in influencing Pyongyang. Japan and South Korea urged China to use its influence to compel North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Even though China has not found it wholly committed to the UN sanctions against North Korea, its engagement in the trilateral talks may be an indication of readiness to mediate and participate in denuclearization in the region.

5.Economic and Technological Cooperation

The summit also focused on enhancement in economic and technological cooperation among the three nations. Being the leading hubs of manufacturing and innovation, China, Japan, and South Korea have the potential to drive significant advancements in a wide range of industries.

China’s call for Japan and South Korea to keep business apart from political issues comes into particular play in light of the tensions in US-China trade relations. By keeping stability in industrial and supply chains, the three countries could protect their economic interests and promote technological development. This would possibly result in transformative business partnerships and innovations for the regional economy and, by extension, the global market.


The recent trilateral summit between China, Japan, and South Korea is a key piece of East Asia diplomacy, covering a plethora of thorny issues that range from regional security to economic cooperation. As the results of the summit are still to be tangibly realized, the commitment towards engaging in dialogue and cooperation between these biggest powers holds promise towards regional stability and prosperity. Much of the international community would be at the watch as these nations try to make their way through their complicated relationships and work towards common goals in an increasingly interconnected world.