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At Camp David: US, South Korea and Japan Condemn China, Agree to Deepen Military Relations

President of the United States (US) Joe Biden and the leaders of South Korea and Japan, Friday (18/8), agreed to increase cooperation in the military and economic fields. At a meeting in Camp David, USA, the countries strongly condemned China’s “dangerous and aggressive behavior” in the South China Sea.

The Biden administration is holding a summit with the leaders of the US’ main Asian allies, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in a bid to project unity in the face of China’s rising power and North Korea’s nuclear threat.

In a statement, the three countries committed to consult each other promptly during times of crisis. They will also coordinate responses to regional challenges, provocations and threats affecting common interests.

They also agreed to hold military drills every year and share real -time information on North Korea’s missile launch by the end of 2023. The three also promised to hold a trilateral summit every year.

Although the political commitment has yet to reach a formal three-way alliance, it is a bold move for Seoul and Tokyo. The two countries have a long history of bitter animosity between the two that stems from the repressive stance of Japanese colonial rule in Korea in 1910-1945.

The Summit that took place at the Maryland presidential retreat was the first independent meeting between the US and Japan and South Korea. The meeting came about thanks to the rapprochement launched by Yoon and driven by shared perceptions of the threat posed by China and North Korea, as well as Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

“Regarding the dangerous and aggressive behavior supporting the unlawful maritime claims made by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea, we resolutely oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in Indo-Pacific waters,” the statement said.

Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Washington, Liu Pengyu, said the international community can judge who escalated tensions.

“Attempts to bring together exclusive groups and bring confrontational blocs and military blocs to the Asia-Pacific will not find support and will only be met with vigilance and opposition from regional countries,” he said.

The meeting was Biden’s first Camp David summit held for foreign leaders. Biden said the wooded place symbolizes “the power of new beginnings and new possibilities.”

“If I look happy, I’m happy,” he said in a joint press conference with Kishida and Yoon, calling it a “new era” for the three countries. “It’s an amazing meeting, it’s amazing.”

Amazing Diplomacy

Biden credited leaders for their political courage to restore ties. He said they understood the world was “at an inflection point, where we are called to lead in new ways, to work together, to stand together.”

“Importantly, we all committed to consulting each other promptly in response to any threat to one of our countries from whatever source it may be,” he said. “That means we will have a hotline in place to share information and coordinate our response whenever there is a crisis in this region, or affect one of our countries.”

“Together we will stand up for international law,” and against “coercion,” Biden said.

Without naming China, Kishida said, “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by resorting to violence in the East and South China Seas are continuing,” adding that North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are “growing.”

Yoon said the summit agreement means that “any provocation or attack against any of our three countries will trigger the decision-making process of this trilateral framework and our solidarity will become stronger and tougher.”

China beware

Beijing has previously warned that US attempts to strengthen ties with South Korea and Japan could escalate tensions and confrontation in the region.

While South Korea, Japan and the US want to avoid provoking Beijing, China believes Washington is trying to isolate it diplomatically and encircle it militarily.

Asked about the accusations leveled by China, Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the goal was “explicitly not NATO for the Pacific” and also said a trilateral alliance had not been set as an explicit goal.

The White House, which is being cautious ahead of the 2024 Presidential Election, wants to make progress between South Korea and Japan by instituting regular cooperation across the board.

Biden, the 80-year-old Democrat, will seek a second term in the 2024 presidential election. He is likely to face former Republican President Donald Trump, who has voiced skepticism about whether Washington benefits from its traditional military and economic alliances.

Meanwhile, South Korea is also due to hold legislative elections next year, as is Japan which will be holding them before October 2025. What analysts see as a fragile rapprochement between the two countries remains controversial among voters in both countries.

Source : VOA News