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Friendly neighborhood vital to China, Japan, ROK | Updated: 2023-05-26 19:56
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Northeast Asia needs new coordination model

Regional cooperation is being driven by improved institutional cooperation between China, Japan and the ROK, while economic and trade cooperation, including cooperation in non-traditional security fields, among the three sides has developed rapidly.

But the three countries also face some daunting challenges. First, they lack political trust because of both external and internal factors. The United States has been putting pressure on China in the fields of trade, diplomacy, national security and cutting-edge technology in a bid to curb China's peaceful rise, and coercing Japan, the ROK and its other allies to join it in containing China.

As China's close neighbors and important trade partners, as well as allies of the US, Japan and the ROK face the dilemma of taking sides against China, although, of late, they have followed the US in challenging China's core interests, creating huge obstacles to cooperation.

Second, regional uncertainties are affecting the three countries' security cooperation. For example, the Korean Peninsula, which is of great geopolitical significance to cooperation among the three countries, still faces a high security risk.

Third, regional political problems have hindered the development of a trilateral cooperative mechanism. Tokyo's refusal to reflect on its militarist past and other historical issues has severely affected China-Japan as well as ROK-Japan ties. Also, disputes over territorial and fishing rights have had a negative impact on their cooperation.

Fortunately, there are still enough reasons for the three Northeast Asian countries to work together in order to boost regional cooperation. For example, they can further expand economic and trade cooperation for mutual benefit.

In this regard, the Belt and Road Initiative can help China, Japan and the ROK to deepen cooperation, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership can help them reach an agreement on building a trilateral free trade zone. Economic cooperation is an important and the most fruitful pillar of trilateral cooperation. And in the future, the economy and non-traditional security may become other important pillars of trilateral cooperation.

Therefore, the three countries need to focus on economic recovery in the post-pandemic period so that efforts can be made to resume regular three-way talks, advance negotiations on a trilateral free trade zone, restart people-to-people exchanges, and strengthen cooperation in non-traditional security fields.

In short, cooperation among China, Japan and the ROK plays a significant role in overall regional economic cooperation and maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

In the future, the three countries are expected to not only deepen all-round cooperation, but also vigorously promote exchanges and cooperation among local governments and enterprises. They are also likely to work together to explore a new model of coordinated development in Northeast Asia, and accelerate the building of a community with a shared future in Northeast Asia.

Li Chengri, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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