US Poised to Broaden Security Boundaries for South Korea and Japan in Trilateral Summit

17 August, 2023 | Akshara Tyagi

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The summit will bring together US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

During their inaugural trilateral summit, the United States, South Korea, and Japan are expected to establish an ongoing collaborative security framework aimed at safeguarding the Indo-Pacific region. However, China opposes this move, viewing it as confrontational, as reported by Voice of America (VOA). The gathering, set to take place on August 18 at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, will serve as an opportunity for the US to reinforce its existing treaty alliances and enhance their roles within the region, according to experts.
The summit will bring together US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Following the conclusion of the summit, it is anticipated that the leaders will make announcements about scheduling subsequent meetings and taking measures to bolster security cooperation. These efforts are not solely focused on countering North Korean threats, but also encompass broader security concerns.
Evans Revere, a former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, suggests that a joint statement issued by the three leaders is likely to reflect these intentions.

“The statement will make clear that North Korea is not the only concern that has brought them together for this unprecedented trilateral gathering at Camp David,” Revere said. “While Pyongyang may be the most urgent threat, the PRC is undoubtedly the biggest strategic challenge facing Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul over the long term,” he said.
For a considerable time, the United States has aimed to bring together the cooperative endeavors of South Korea and Japan into an enduring partnership. This objective has become attainable due to the recent reconciliation between the leaders of these two countries in March. Historically strained relations, stemming from Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, had hindered close collaboration between these East Asian nations, particularly in matters related to military affairs, as highlighted by VOA.
In response to North Korea’s missile launches, the US, South Korea, and Japan engaged in joint ballistic missile exercises in October, February, April, and July. While South Korea traditionally concentrated on deterring North Korean threats and Japan on safeguarding its claim to the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese, there has been a shift. Presently, Seoul and Tokyo are anticipated to amalgamate their efforts to counter potential threats from their respective authoritarian neighbors.
South Korean President Yoon emphasized the pivotal role Japan plays in defending against a potential North Korean assault during his National Liberation Day speech. He conveyed that Japan’s seven rear bases would furnish land, sea, and air capabilities to the US-led UN Command stationed in South Korea should any conflict arise on the peninsula.
Yoon added that the summit will set “a new milestone in trilateral cooperation” and that boosting cooperation with NATO is also important as security in the Indo-Pacific is closely connected to the security of Europe, VOA reported. The defense of South Korea against North Korea has been backed by the UN Command led by the United States, which comprises multinational forces stationed within the country. Meanwhile, Japan’s security against China has been reinforced through its participation in the QUAD security forum, which also includes the United States, Australia, and India as its fellow members.
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the summit is not meant to be “provocative” or “to incite tensions” with China. Nevertheless, Beijing views it as antagonistic, VOA reported. Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu told VOA’s Korean Service via email on Tuesday that “China has noticed that exclusionary groupings are being assembled for the so-called ‘regional security,’ only to intensify antagonism and undermine the strategic security of other countries.”
He added, “China firmly opposes such practices.” Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu agreed on closer military cooperation when they met at the Moscow Conference on International Security on Tuesday, VOA reported.
Moscow has sought arms assistance from Pyongyang to aid its conflict against Ukraine. On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on entities engaged in arms transactions between Russia and North Korea, as reported by VOA.
Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution, said the Washington-Seoul-Tokyo ties “along with other initiatives like the QUAD or AUKUS, should clearly signal” to the China-North Korea-Russian partnership “that their decision to undermine international norms and rules will only strengthen partnership among US allies.”