REPORT | JAPAN, CHINA AND SOUTH KOREA – Trilateral cooperation in the Trump era

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Cooperation between Japan, China and South Korea is becoming increasingly important to solve challenges from North Korea and to deal with uncertainty over the Trump administration’s policies.

That was the message of experts speaking at a Friends of Europe Policy Insight on 22 February, which focussed on the Seoul-based Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat (TCS). This was set up in 2011 to promote peace and prosperity between the three countries, which share close economic ties but often have tense relations over territorial and other issues. In particular, they have long struggled to resolve problems related to their conflicts in the first half of the 20th century. China’s traditional support for North Korea has also caused friction.

Behind these headline-grabbing problems however, the three countries have been quietly building the foundations of a constructive relationship. They have much to gain: They all depend heavily on trade for growth, and they face economic challenges – either immediate or upcoming – as their societies age quickly. Moreover, following the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, it is not clear how the Trump presidency will affect the regional power balance – and how it might react to a further escalation in aggressive actions by North Korea.

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