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Japan, China, S. Korea mull 3-way foreign minister talks in late Aug.

In this Aug. 7, 2017 file photo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, center, speaks while seated next to South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at a meeting in Manila, held by the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members plus Japan, China and South Korea. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan, China and South Korea are arranging for their foreign ministers to meet in late August to discuss trilateral economic cooperation and other issues, a Japanese government source said Friday.

The planned trilateral meeting involving Taro Kono of Japan, Wang Yi of China and Kang Kyung Wha of South Korea is expected to lay the groundwork for a regular three-way summit, which Beijing is expected to host later this year, according to the source.

The focus of this year's regular trilateral ministerial gathering in China is whether the three neighbors can find common ground at a time when bilateral ties between Tokyo and Seoul have fallen to the lowest point in years due to disputes over wartime history and trade policy.

Trilateral cooperation toward denuclearization of North Korea will likely also be high on the agenda, the source said.

On the sidelines of the trilateral gathering, the ministers are likely to hold bilateral talks. Kono is expected to call on South Korea not to forcibly liquidate assets of some Japanese companies subject to South Korean court rulings to compensate people who claimed they were victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Tokyo maintains that the issue of compensation was resolved under a 1965 treaty that established diplomatic relations between the countries.

Japan earlier this month tightened export controls on three chemical materials used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels for smartphones and TVs, a move Seoul has criticized as retaliation. Tokyo insists they are meant to address security concerns.

Between Japan and China, Kono and Wang will likely talk about measures to further improve bilateral ties after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid an official visit to China last October.

The three East Asian neighbors hold summit talks on a regular basis, and their leaders last met in May last year in Tokyo.

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