US Promises ‘New Era’ as Biden Prepares to Host First Summit With Japan and South Korea – The United States has pledged to initiate a fresh phase in its relationships with its crucial allies in Asia. This comes at a time when the region is grappling with the challenges posed by a more assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Anticipated to capitalize on the recent warming of relations between Japan and South Korea, both of which host a substantial number of US troops, President Joe Biden is set to unveil new cooperative efforts related to missile defense and technology during his meeting with the leaders of these countries on Friday. In their inaugural independent summit, President Biden will convene with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Camp David.
US officials indicate that this summit aims to advance their collective vision of fostering a free and open Asia-Pacific region. Kurt Campbell, the White House’s coordinator overseeing affairs in the Indo-Pacific region, expressed that the connections between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul would shape a pivotal trilateral partnership in the 21st century.
This statement comes as reports suggest that the summit will yield proposals for enhanced collaboration encompassing ballistic missile defense, increased joint military exercises, and the establishment of a three-way security hotline. “What you will see on Friday is a very ambitious set of initiatives that seek to lock in trilateral engagement, both now and in the future,” Campbell told a Brookings Institution event.
Just over a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine a standalone summit between leaders of Japan and South Korea, given their previous disputes over historical issues. Their relationship had deteriorated significantly before Yoon took office in May 2022, largely due to Koreans’ claims for compensation related to Japan’s use of forced labor during its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, as well as the ongoing controversy about Korean women coerced into working in Japanese military brothels.
However, Yoon, a conservative leader, and Kishida managed to address the forced labor dispute and fostered a positive relationship. This newfound warmth between them even led to a joint visit to a memorial honoring Korean victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombing when the G7 summit took place in May. This week, Yoon described Japan as a “partner” with shared values and interests, as his county marked the 78th anniversary of its liberation from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.
The Camp David summit “will set a new milestone in trilateral cooperation contributing to peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region”, Yoon said. The improvement in relations has been met with a sense of relief in Washington, which aims to establish a unified regional stance against China’s military actions near Taiwan and North Korea’s pursuit of more advanced weapons of mass destruction, despite the UN-led sanctions in place.
China has denounced the summit, saying it “opposes relevant countries forming various cliques and their practices of exacerbating confrontation and jeopardising other countries’ strategic security.” “We hope the countries concerned will go with the trend of the times and do something conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said this week.
“Japan and South Korea are core allies – not just in the region, but around the world,” the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said this week, adding that Biden’s summit would “mark what we believe is a new era in trilateral cooperation”. Blinken said he expected a continued focus on North Korea “given the endless provocation it’s taken” but added that the meeting would address a “much more expansive agenda”.
The summit will be held just days after North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, exchanged letters pledging to develop ties into what Kim called a “longstanding strategic relationship,” according to the North’s state-run KCNA news agency.
Putin reciprocated with a call for closer Moscow-Pyongyang ties. “I am sure that we will continue to build up bilateral cooperation in all areas for the benefit of our peoples, in the interests of strengthening stability and security on the Korean peninsula and in the north-east Asian region as a whole,” he said in a statement distributed by the Kremlin.