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The culture ministers from Japan, China and South Korea met in the ancient South Korean city of Kwangju on Saturday and designated one city in each country as an "East Asia City of Culture."
Japan named Yokohama, a port city known for international exchanges, while China chose Quanzhou, an ancient trading port in southern Fujian Province, and South Korea picked Kwangju, a city with more than 2,000 years of history.
The three cities have been designated as the principal venues for a host of cultural and arts exchange programs to begin next year to promote mutual understanding among the three East Asian countries, which have been afflicted by territorial disputes and issues of history.
The get-together in Kwangju, involving Japan's education and culture minister Hakubun Shimomura, China's culture minister Cai Wu and South Korea's culture minister Yoo Jin Ryong, is the first Cabinet-level meeting of the three countries since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office last December.
Japan's government-to-government ties with China and South Korea have been strained by territorial disputes over the past year as well as history issues stemming from Japan's past war in China and Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
"One big achievement of this meeting is that we have come to share the understanding that cultural exchanges are important to develop the ties of our countries," Shimomura told reporters after the one-day session.
The three countries also agreed at the meeting in Kwangju to hold the next trilateral meeting of cultural ministers next year in Japan.
The host country of the annual ministerial meeting would also host an arts and cultural festival involving cultural events and arts performances from the three countries.
The three countries will also designate other cities as an "East Asia City of Culture" from 2015.
Japan, China and South Korea launched the trilateral meeting of culture ministers in 2007, and the Kwangju meeting is the fifth round in the series.
Japan, China and South Korea also held a ministerial conference on environmental issues in May, but, reflecting the soured diplomatic ties with Japan, China downgraded its representation by sending a deputy environment minister to the session.
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