(Bloomberg) -- China, Japan and South Korea sought to revitalize cooperation on security and economic matters at their first formal three-way summit since 2019, with Premier Li Qiang looking to persuade his neighbors to work with Beijing on keeping supply chains stable.

Li asked Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during their three-way talks Monday in Seoul to reject playing bloc politics and decoupling from China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The summit comes as Beijing has been pushing back against the tightening of US chip export rules that are part of a broader effort to hobble China’s chipmaking industry over national security concerns. Japan and South Korea, which have been drawing closer to each other and Washington under Yoon, are central to US efforts to deny Beijing access to high-end chipmaking tools and technology.

“We agreed to create a transparent and predictable trade and investment environment and establish a safe supply chain,” Yoon said after the summit. In a joint statement, the three pledged to strengthen cooperation on supply chains and accelerate talks toward a free trade agreement, which have sputtered for years. 

Yoon and Kishida touched on the security threats raised by North Korea. Tokyo and Seoul have sought Beijing’s help to use its economic influence on Pyongyang to rein in leader Kim Jong Un’s atomic ambitions.

Read more: China Urges South Korea to Maintain Stable Supply Chains 

Just before the summit, Japan said North Korea has given notice that it plans to soon launch a rocket to deploy a satellite. Japan, South Korea and the US have said North Korea’s space program helps it develop ballistic missiles and violates United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Read more: North Korea Gives Notice of Satellite Launch by June 4

“It is important to work toward North Korea’s denuclearization while faithfully implementing UN Security Council resolutions with the goal of ultimately realizing a free, peaceful and unified Korean Peninsula,” Yoon said.

While the three countries are geographically close, summits such as this are relatively rare. The leaders were supposed to convene annually but the meeting stalled for nearly five years because of the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions.

Yeo Han-koo, a former South Korean trade minister who helped organize the previous 2019 trilateral summit, said the gap between Beijing and the two allies of the US on the trade issue is “not easy to bridge” under the Biden administration’s export control regime.

“At least they can get a win-win by managing risks and preventing a worst-case scenario of economic coercion and tit-for-tat escalation,” said Yeo.

Li told Yoon at their meeting Sunday that both sides should avoid turning economic issues into political issues, and Beijing welcomes South Korean firms including Samsung Electronics Co. to expand investment in China, Xinhua said. 

The comments from the Chinese premier come as economic ties with its neighbors have weakened and major firms such as Samsung and Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. have stepped up investments in manufacturing in the US.

The pace of Japanese investment in China has slowed, even though the country remains the most important source of investment for Beijing. New investment fell for a second year in 2023, and total new money into China and Hong Kong was less than 1/10th of the spending in the US, according to government data.

Read more: Samsung to Unveil $44 Billion US Chip Push as Soon as Next Week

The same is true for Korean firms. Investment into China last year was the lowest in 20 years, while Korean companies continued to pour money into the US to take advantage of subsidies for high-tech investment. 

Kishida’s talks with Li were a bit more pointed as he called on China to free detained Japanese nationals, and raised concern over China’s actions in the East China Sea, where ships from the two countries sail near disputed isles on an almost daily basis. 

Tokyo and Seoul have also expressed concern about security in the Taiwan Strait, and Kishida said he brought up the subject in his talks with Li. Tensions in the region have risen as China held its most expansive military drills in a year around Taiwan last week, ramping up pressure on the island’s new president, Lai Ching-te, just days after he was sworn in.

Read more: China Holds Biggest Military Drills in a Year Around Taiwan 

Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Bloomberg Television that talks were anticipated to touch on the industrial policy impact of Chinese pressure on Taiwan, with Kishida and Yoon likely using private conversations to express concerns over the intentions of Chinese behavior. 

Kishida and Yoon have stepped up security cooperation with Washington and last year met with President Joe Biden for an unprecedented summit. The Asian leaders may be heading to the US again in the next few months, possibly to hold a summit with Biden that will build on their meeting last year, according to reports from Kyodo News and other media.

--With assistance from Haidi Lun, James Mayger, Kyoji Iwai, Rika Yoshida, Lauren Faith Lau, Soo-Hyang Choi, Junyi Wu, Brian Fowler and Annabelle Droulers.

(Updates with joint statement in paragraph four, details on investments.)

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