Rising missile threats from North Korea and concerns about Chinese military capabilities and intentions prompted Biden to invite South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Yoon Suk Yeol this Friday. Fumio Kishidato Camp David, the presidential complex on the outskirts of Washington, symbol of the step towards the pacification of the Middle East.
This is the first major diplomatic event to strengthen alliances since 2015, and will highlight the US administration’s attempts to institutionalize the trilateral security cooperationlinking the three countries in a pseudo-alliance based on intelligence sharing, the missile defense, cybersecurity and strengthening the nuclear deterrence.
The Camp David summit will put a new icing on the trilateral cake that has been cooking for the past year. This will be reflected in a joint declaration, still in the negotiation phase, which will establish a shared perception and interests in security matters, with references to North Korea and China, as well as the war in Ukraine. Also on the agenda is an agreement on mutual consultations in the event of a crisis and the convening of annual trilateral summits. In addition, economic security issues, such as semiconductor cooperation and technological ties with Beijing, will be addressed.
Historically, the powers have held trilateral meetings 12 times since 1994, but all of them outside international conferences. In this case, the true engine that has made this celebration possible has been the arrival of the Yoon administration and its commitment to reconciliation with Japan. The meeting comes at a time when friction between Seoul and Tokyo has eased significantly in recent months. In March, Yoon took a big step toward resolving bilateral disputes over colonial-era Korean forced laborers, despite vehement opposition from some victims and his liberal rivals. In addition, the South Korean president has argued that both countries share challenges such as intensifying US-China competition and global supply chain issues, as well as North Korea’s challenging nuclear program.
Boosting joint operations between the two Pacific nations – each a key regional ally for the US – has been a goal of many administrations over the past 40 years. But historical enmities, especially over Japan’s actions on the Korean peninsula during World War II, have often hampered efforts to make Tokyo and Seoul close military partners own right.
In a statement made public on July 30, The White House affirmed that “this summit will promote a shared vision to face the security challenges global and regional, promote an international order based on rules and strengthen economic prosperity”. In addition, in a briefing by the State Department, Blinken assured that the meeting comes “at a time when our region and the world are being tested because of geopolitical competition, because of the climate crisis, because of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, because of nuclear provocations.
The United States-Japan-South Korea relationship is solid, since it is articulated around two technologically advanced allies that possess defensive capabilities important and jointly house around a hundred permanent military bases and some 80,000 US soldiers.
On the other hand, the mutual defense treaty between The United States and South Korea will turn 70 in October, and both countries have spent the past few months implementing the April 2023 Washington Declaration, which reiterates the expanded deterrence commitment in the face of North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities. Japan, for its part, is carrying out its own defense transformation, with plans to double its military budget in the next five years and boost the interoperability of its forces with countries like the Philippines or Australia.
Since the beginning of his tenure, Biden has worked to strengthen alliances in the Indo-Pacific – and around the world – as a way to counter China’s ambitions. One of his first virtual summits was the so-called Quad, in which the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India they met to discuss their collective security interests. Also, in September 2021, Washington and the United Kingdom announced a plan to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines to challenge Chinese territorial claims in the region.
The North Korean threat
However, strengthening trilateral cooperation carries the risk of a further escalation of tensions with Pyongyang, unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons or resume talks. In fact, the Hermit Kingdom tried last year at least 90 missiles, almost four times more than its maximum of 25 in 2017. Also, last month she fired her last intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-18, as a warning to Washington and other adversaries. During an inspection visit to a military factory last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also called for an increase in its missile production, to ensure “overwhelming military power” and be prepared for war, the state news agency reported. KCNA.
On the other hand, the summit may irritate China and Russia, which have criticized recent US efforts to strengthen its alliances in Europe and Asia. Both countries held joint military exercises in the East China Sea in December and in the Sea of Japan in July. The Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, declared in December that the deployment of a coastal defense missile system in Paramushir, part of Russia’s Kuril Islands, was partly in response to Washington’s efforts to contain Moscow and Beijing. Also, at the end of July, Shoigu visited Pyongyang, ostensibly to get more munitions for the Ukrainian war.