President Biden welcomed his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to Camp David on Friday morning as he seeks to cement a newly strengthened three-way alliance, bridging generations of friction between the two Asian powers to forge mutual security arrangements in the face of an increasingly assertive China.
Mr Biden greeted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea at the presidential retreat in Maryland, the first time he has invited foreign leaders there and the first time the leaders of the three countries have met in a booth will meet. session alone rather than on the sidelines of larger international meetings.
“Strengthening the ties between our democracies has long been a priority for me, dating back to when I was Vice President of the United States,” Mr. Biden told the other leaders during a televised induction session. "That's because our countries and the world would be safer" if they unite. He added: "I want to thank you both for your political courage that brought you here."
The others echoed the sentiments. “Today will go down in history as a historic day,” said Mr. Yoon. Mr Kishida agreed, saying the fact that the three could come together "means that we are indeed making a new history from today."
The three leaders, all unaffiliated, plan a series of meetings and lunch before reappearing in front of the cameras at 3 p.m. for a joint press conference. to announce the results of their discussions.
While the United States has long been allied with Japan and South Korea separately, the historic animosities between Tokyo and Seoul, stemming most acutely from Japan's brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula, have frustrated Americans.efforts to unite the three into a cohesive partnership. But Mr. Yoon's recent moves toward rapprochement with Japan have dramatically changed the dynamics in Northeast Asia, and Mr. Biden hopes to create a closer, more lasting alignment.
Biden administration officials said leaders would sign a formal “commitment to consultation,” an agreement that the three nations would treat any security threat to any of them as a threat to all, requiring a mutual discussion of how to respond. The pledge wouldn't go as far as Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which requires allies to "take action" in the event of an attack on any member, but it would reinforce expectations that the three would act together.
The three will also strengthen cooperation on ballistic missile defense, expand annual triple military exercises and develop a framework for security assistance in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. They will also deploy the first trilateral hotline so leaders can communicate safely in the event of a crisis, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss agreements before they were formally announced.
To reinforce the sense of a new era in the relationship, the leaders will also commit to annual meetings intended to continue in future administrations, an institutional arrangement similar to the regular sessions US presidents have with their Mexican and Canadian counterparts.
“We are opening a new era, and we are making sure that era has lasting power,” Jake Sullivan, the president's national security adviser, told reporters at Camp David. “It is a historic event and it is creating the conditions for a more peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific and a stronger and more secure United States of America,” he added.
“So this is a worthy legacy for the president, for President Yoon, for Prime Minister Kishida.”
But the emerging entente has its limits. Japan was unwilling to join a pact the United States and South Korea had madeagreed to create last springSeoul is included in Washington's strategic planning for the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict with North Korea, according to officials and analysts.
The Nuclear Consultative Group that Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon decided to form at an April meeting in Washington was designed to coordinate military responses to North Korea, and Washington pledged to "make every effort to consult Seoul before he would use nuclear weapons in retaliation. against the North.
Japan, the only country ever to use nuclear weapons against it, refused to participate, a decision US officials attributed to domestic public sensitivities. “I don't feel the Japanese government sees this as necessary or desirable,” said Sheila A. Smith, a Japan specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Still, China has made clear its displeasure with the convergence between the three countries, seeing this as evidence that the United States intends to contain its rise.
“The upcoming summit between the leaders of the three countries at Camp David in Maryland later this week aims to form a 'mini-NATO' structure that will be destructive to regional security, adding complexity and increasing conflict. emerge,” says The Global Times. a popular Chinese tabloid controlled by the Communist Party,wrote this week, citing regional experts.
China's economic dominance in the region complicates the changing partnerships for Japan and South Korea. China is the largest trading partner for each of them. Beijing has already reacted harshly to South Korea's growing ties with the United States; in June,The Chinese ambassador in Seoul warnedthat "those who bet on China's defeat will surely regret it later."
Now that the United States and its allies have isolated Moscow, Russia and China have moved closer and many in the region are concerned that Beijing is drawing lessons from the war in Ukraine in terms of its long-running conflict with Taiwan. Just this week, China's Defense Minister Li Shangfu visited Moscowwarned against 'playing with fire'when it came to Taiwan, saying that any attempt to “use Taiwan to contain China” would “certainly end in failure.”
No one missed the message sent last month when China and Russiaconducted joint military exercises in the Sea of Japanshortly after the United States, Japan and South Korea held trilateral missile exercises. It also went unnoticed when North Korea welcomed high-level Russian and Chinese delegations to a military parade in Pyongyang a week later.
Mr Sullivan stressed that diplomacy was not about China on Friday. “I just want to underline that this summit today, this partnership, is against no one, but is for something,” he said. “It is about a vision of the Indo Pacific that is free, open, safe and prosperous. This is a positive agenda.” As for cooperation, he stressed: "It is explicitly not NATO for the Pacific."
Still, experts from the region said the tripartite deal would not have been possible just a year or two ago, a sign of how much China's rise has distorted the equation in the region and how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shaken thinking about the need for for Safety.
Victor Cha, vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Asia adviser to President George W. Bush, said the Camp David meeting is "a major problem" rooted in changing threat perceptions in the region. .
“This consolidation of alliance relationships is happening now because the external environment is so uncertain and unstable,” he said. “There is nothing like an actual, real war, even if it takes place in a different part of the world, to completely change or influence the way leaders think about their own security.”
Mr Biden has made China a central focus of his foreign policy since taking office, working to bring different countries in the region together in a sort of network of partnerships. He drewa tripartite security agreement with Australia and Britain; strengthensthe so-called Quad groupingfrom the United States, India, Australia and Japan;increased the US military presence in the Philippines; Inestablished the Indo-Pacific Economic Frameworkwith 14 countries.
Three of his first four state dinners have or will honor leaders from the Indo-Pacific region.Meneer Yoon in april,premierNarendra Modi from India in Juneand Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia in October. Mr Biden also plans to visit India next month, where the annual meeting of the Group of 20 countries is taking place.
A stronger cooperation with Japan and South Korea could be an important pillar in that strategy. Mr. Yoon, who was elected last year, has tried to resolve old disputes and opened the door for mutual visits with Mr. Kishida.
"China's entire strategy is based on the premise that America's number one and two allies in the region cannot come together and align," Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, said at a forum at the Brookings Institution. with Mr Campbell earlier this week. “That will be fundamentally different.” A three-pronged treaty, he said, “will, in my opinion, change the strategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific.”
Peter Bakeris the White House's chief correspondent and has covered the past five presidents for The Times and The Washington Post. He is the author of seven books, most recently "The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021," with Susan Glasser. More about Peter Bakker
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