• Taro Kono and Kang Kyung-wha discuss situation in the city during a summit with their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi
  • Chinese state media says both neighbours were concerned about well-being of their countries’ citizens and businesses
Tear gas fired during a protest in Hong Kong on August 4. Photo: SCMP

Japan and South Korea's foreign ministers have expressed concern about the continuing unrest in Hong Kong at a meeting with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing.

Japan was among the first countries to openly raise concerns about the situation, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussing it with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Osaka G20 summit in late June.

With the unrest in Hong Kong showing little sign of abating, the country's foreign minister Taro Kono and his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha raised the issue again on Wednesday during the trilateral summit with their Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

Both expressed concern about the safety of their citizens and businesses in the city, according to Chinese state media.

Kang is the most senior South Korean government figure so far to have spoken out on the issue.

Wang said it was understandable the pair had raised concerns because of the "extreme violence" seen in the city in recent weeks.

"The Hong Kong issue is an internal matter for China and foreign meddling cannot be tolerated," he continued.

The United States, the European Union and their allies have recently stepped up calls for talks between protesters and the local authority to defuse the crisis.

US President Donald Trump earlier this week said that if Beijing resorted to a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown then the US could not reach a deal to end its trade war with China, warnings echoed by other prominent officials in his administration.

Pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong are planning more protests in the coming days after hundreds of thousands of people marched peacefully on Sunday in defiance of Beijing's recent anti-riot exercises across the border.

From left, Kang Kyung-wha, Wang Yi and Taro Kono in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Kyodo

On Wednesday, Wang told his counterparts that the central government fully backs the Hong Kong authorities' efforts to restore law and order and defend the city's "prosperity and stability".

"We believe the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government will protect their legitimate rights and interests in accordance with law," he said.

"All parties should understand and support the (Hong Kong) government's efforts to stop violence and put an end to the chaos and take an objective and impartial position on the issue."

Japan has extensive trade and cultural ties with Hong Kong and there are more than 18,600 South Koreans living in the city.

A trade official in Seoul said that the government is closely monitoring the situation and, in particular, is watching the possible economic impact on the 200 South Korean businesses operating in the city.

"The relevant sectors of the government have recently made a report analysing the economic impact," the official said, without further elaborating.

According to the latest data available from the state-funded Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, South Korea invested US$3 billion in Hong Kong in 2017.

Hong Kong exported US$7.2 billion to South Korea, whilst importing US$32.3 billion worth of goods from the country in 2017, according to data compiled by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Additional reporting by Lee Jeong-ho

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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