US promises ‘new era’ as Biden prepares to host first summit with Japan and South Korea
The Guardian: The US has promised to usher in a “new era” in relations with its most important allies in Asia, as the region struggles to address the threat posed by an increasingly assertive China and a nuclear-armed North Korea. Joe Biden is expected to take advantage of a recent thaw in ties between Japan and South Korea – home to tens of thousands of US troops – to announce new collaborations on missile defence and technology, when he meets the countries’ leaders yesterday.
Biden will host the South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, and the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, at Camp David for their first standalone summit, which US officials say will promote their shared vision of a free and open Asia-Pacific region. Kurt Campbell, the White House’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, said Washington’s ties with Tokyo and Seoul would be a “defining trilateral relationship for the 21st century”, amid reports that the summit would produce initiatives on expanded cooperation on ballistic missile defence, more joint military drills and 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. A standalone summit bringing together Japanese and South Korean leaders would have been almost unthinkable just over a year ago, when the North-east Asian neighbours were embroiled in disputes over their bitter wartime legacy. Bilateral ties were at a low point before Yoon took office in May 2022, due to compensation claims by Koreans over Japan’s use of forced labour during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, and the longstanding controversy over Korean women who were coerced into working in Japanese military brothels.
Yoon, a conservative, and Kishida appear to have resolved the forced labour dispute and established a warm relationship that has included a joint visit to a memorial to Korean victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombing when the city hosted the G7 summit 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 thaw in ties has been greeted with relief in Washington as it attempts to present a united regional front against Chinese military activity near Taiwan and North Korea’s development of more powerful weapons of mass destruction in defiance of UN-led sanctions.