(LEAD) S. Korea, China, Japan to hold 1st trilateral summit in 4 1/2 years in Seoul next week

Leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will hold a long-suspended trilateral summit in Seoul next week for the first time in 4 1/2 years, the presidential office said Thursday. President Yoon Suk Yeol will meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul on Monday, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo said during a press briefing. Yoon will separately hold bilateral talks with Li and Kishida at the presidential office on Sunday. It will be Li's first visit to South Korea since taking office in March 2023. It marks the first trilateral summit among the Asian countries since December 2019, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strained Seoul-Tokyo relations over historical disputes. Kim said the summit will cover six areas of cooperation, comprising economy and trade, sustainable development, health issues, science and technology, disaster and safety management, and people-to-people exchanges, which will be included in a joint statement. "Th e summit will serve as a turning point for fully restoring and normalizing the trilateral cooperation system among South Korea, Japan and China," Kim said. "It will also provide an opportunity to recover future-oriented and practical cooperation momentum that will allow the people of the three countries to feel the benefits," he added. The leaders will also discuss regional and international issues and engage with about 80 businesspeople at a welcome dinner on Sunday and a business forum the next day, according to Kim. The leaders are expected to explore cooperation in economic, trade and health sectors while aiming to avoid friction, as Seoul and Tokyo have aligned more closely with Washington amid its intensifying rivalry with Beijing. The upcoming summit follows the August 2023 Camp David summit, where leaders of the U.S., South Korea and Japan underscored their security cooperation against North Korean threats and reinforced their commitment to a "free and open Indo-Pacific." South Korea and Japan ar e likely to ask China to play a role in curbing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats amid concerns over North Korea's arms supply to Russia for its ongoing war in Ukraine. Beijing could address security concerns over deepening trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, which have held joint military drills since the Camp David summit. At a recent bilateral summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. and its allies for their "intimidation in the military sphere" against North Korea. In March, Russia vetoed a United Nations resolution to extend a monitoring panel on the enforcement of North Korean sanctions, with China abstaining, thwarting U.S.-led efforts to rein in Pyongyang's weapons program. While their differences over regional security issues are not likely to be resolved at the meeting, Seoul officials say it represents a crucial step in reviving trilateral dialogue to avoid conflict and boost collaboration in economy, technology and health sectors. "The issue of North Korea's denuclearization and inter-Korean relations is a complicated subject that is unlikely to result in a clear agreement," a senior presidential official told reporters. "Most of the time is likely to be dedicated more to economic and livelihood-related matters ... However, we will make efforts to include security issues in the joint statement to some extent."