Japan, China and South Korea are likely to hold their trilateral summit in May or later, with Beijing carefully watching the political situations in its two neighbors in the coming months, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
The leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping will monitor whether Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida can maintain his political footing at home, while paying attention to the outcome of the general election in South Korea in April, the sources said.
In Japan, the approval ratings for Kishida's Cabinet have plunged to their lowest levels since he took office in October 2021, as the recent slush funds scandal rattles his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, blurring the outlook for his government.
Last November, the foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea agreed to accelerate their efforts to hold the first three-way summit since December 2019 "at an early and appropriate date," when they held talks in Busan.
South Korea, currently the rotating chair of the trilateral dialogue, had initially aimed to hold the summit of the Asian nations by the end of 2023, but gave up the plan as Seoul failed to provide a specific timeline at the foreign ministerial talks.
Arrangement work for setting a date for the gathering involving Kishida, Xi and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has stalled, according to the sources, with one of them saying that the summit might take place "in May at the earliest."
On April 28, three House of Representatives by-elections are slated to be held in Japan, probably posing a test for Kishida, while the general election in South Korea on April 10 would serve as a touchstone for Yoon, who became the president in May 2022.
The Chinese government led by the Communist Party has not responded to proposals regarding details of the summit, including its schedule, the sources said.
In her speech on the country's foreign policy goals for 2024 at an ordinary session of parliament on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Tokyo will support Seoul's push for the trilateral summit.