SEOUL, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea met in the port city of Busan on Sunday, seeking to restart co-operation among the Asian neighbours and pave the way for a summit of their three leaders.

Even as China and the United States mend frayed ties, including a summit this month of their leaders Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, Beijing is concerned that Washington and its key regional allies are strengthening their three-way partnership.

Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo had agreed on annual summits from 2008 to bolster diplomatic and economic exchanges, but two-way rows and the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the plan, with the three leaders last meeting in 2019.

The three top diplomats met in Busan for their first such meeting since 2019, after officials of the three countries had agreed in September to arrange a trilateral summit at the "earliest convenient time".

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said he hoped to hold in-depth discussions on North Korean issues, seeking a "practical outcome" on issues such as people-to-people exchanges, climate change and trade and economy.

"Above all, it is important to further institutionalise trilateral cooperation so that it will develop into a stable and sustainable system," Park told the meeting.

The officials would work to ensure the summit of the leaders of the three nations was held as soon as possible, he added.

Park met separately with his counterparts, Japan's Yoko Kamikawa and China's Wang Yi, on Sunday.

Park and Kamikawa condemned North Korea's launch last week of its first spy satellite and agreed to boost responses to arms deals between Pyongyang and Moscow, Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Marring the co-operative tone, Kamikawa described as "extremely regrettable" a South Korean court's order for Japan to compensate a group of women forced to work in its wartime brothels and asked Seoul to take appropriate measures, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.

Beijing's foreign ministry said Wang warned Park not to politicise economic and technology issues, amid China-U.S. tension over semiconductors and other trade disputes.

Kamikawa met Wang on Saturday and expressed hopes for security dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing "in the near future".

Wang highlighted the need for both sides to ensure they "do not pose a threat" to each another and respect the legitimate concerns of both, China's foreign ministry said.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have moved to mend ties frayed by history and trade feuds, and held a historic three-way summit in August with Biden.

In July, Wang warned that U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Seoul and Tokyo could fan regional tension and spark confrontation.

Photo from Reuters