Much to expect from China-Japan-ROK cooperation in post-COVID-19 era

China Military Online
Wang Xinjuan
2020-05-27 00:08:14
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi answers reporters’ questions about China’s foreign policy and relations, May 24. (Photo: Xinhua)

By Chen Yang

At a press conference during the two sessions on May 24, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi hailed the joint response to COVID-19 among China, Japan and the ROK as “providing an example and inspiration for the world”. His high comments reflected his expectations for the three countries’ cooperation in the post-pandemic era. Although they had to cancel or postpone political and diplomatic interactions scheduled for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience of battling the coronavirus together has further consolidated their trilateral relations that offer much to expect in the future.

When the epidemic first broke out in China at the end of last year, senior Japanese and ROK officials expressed multiple times their support for China to adopt more epidemic prevention and control measures. Slogans like “Go, China”, “Go, Wuhan” appeared on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, while the ROK embassy in China put up a streamer reading “China’s difficulties are our difficulties”. People in Japan and the ROK donated masks, protective suits and other medical supplies for China...When China was at its most difficult time fighting the epidemic, such timely assistance from our Japanese and ROK friends warmed the hearts of the Chinese people.

Later when the COVID-19 escalated in Japan and the ROK, especially when they were short of anti-virus supplies such as masks and medical alcohol, all walks of life in China reciprocated their earlier friendly help by providing much-needed medical supplies in return. Japan and ROK helped each other too by, for instance, carrying each other’s overseas nationals back home on chartered planes.

These touching stories of mutual help and assistance redefined the mutual understanding among the Chinese, Japanese and ROK people, narrowed the “deficit” of people-to-people friendliness to some extent, and injected new impetus into the steady and sustainable development of trilateral relations in the post-COVID-19 era.

In addition to friendliness among the people, further joint support for multilateralism will be the new direction of China-Japan-ROK cooperation in the post-pandemic era. During the outbreak, the US, in order to shirk its responsibilities, frequently blamed the WHO and even threatened to permanently stop funding it and withdraw from the organization, which jeopardized the multilateral mechanism at the critical juncture of global anti-virus efforts.

However, Tokyo and Seoul, as Washington’s Asian-Pacific allies, were quite cautious this time. Instead of following Washington’s lead, they expressed strong support for WHO and its leading role in fighting the pandemic.

At the special meeting held online among the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers on COVID-19 and the special summit between the three countries and ASEAN, Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul also showed willingness to promote regional multilateral cooperation on such issues as medical health, entry/exit management and economic development. Several breakthroughs on regional economic cooperation are worth expecting, including the free trade negotiation among China, Japan and the ROK and the signing of a regional comprehensive economic partnership treaty within the year.

It’s worth noting that Chinese premier Li Keqiang proposed the “China-Japan-ROK plus X” cooperation mode when he attended the trilateral summit meeting in 2018, and the 9th foreign ministers’ meeting among the three countries in August 2019 passed the conceptual document for “China-Japan-ROK plus X” cooperation mechanism.

Therefore, either in terms of the international environment or the reality of the three parties themselves, the three Northeast Asian neighbors are sure to give more support to multilateralism after the pandemic is over and highlight multilateral cooperation as an important booster of trilateral relations.

The COVID-19 pandemic will be defeated eventually, but friendship forged in fighting it will last long and beyond. "Though we live in different lands, the same moon and sky make us one" and "United by the same humanity, we forget our nationality". These beautiful verses have witnessed the tripartite cooperation during this rare and hard battle, the deepening consensus on cooperation among Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul, and the new stage of friendship among their peoples.

Against such a background, we look forward to the China-Japan-ROK cooperation playing a significant role in promoting economic growth in East Asia, leading regional integration, and contributing more eastern wisdom and strength to development of the region and the world at large.

Related News