The US, Japan and South Korea are to launch a series of joint initiatives on technology and defense when the nations’ leaders gather at Camp David on Friday, according to senior US administration officials, amid mounting shared concerns about China.
While the summit is unlikely to produce a formal security arrangement that commits the nations to each others’ defense, they would agree to mutual understanding about regional responsibilities and set up a three-way hotline to communicate in times of crisis, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
US President Joe Biden invited Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to the storied presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains as the Asian nations work to mend their tattered diplomatic relations in the face of greater regional threats posed by China’s rise and North Korea.
It would mark the first in what US officials hope to be an annual gathering between the three nations’ leaders.
South Korea and Japan held their first joint summit in 12 years in March and have made steps to ease tensions after years of disputes, including some related to Japan’s 1910 to 1945 occupation of Korea.
Washington has formal collective defense arrangements in place with Tokyo and Seoul separately, but it wants the two nations to work closer together given growing concerns about China’s mounting power.
“We are anticipating some steps that will bring us closer together in the security realm,” said one of the US officials, adding that doing so would “add to our collective security.”
However, the official said that “it’s too much to ask — it’s a bridge too far — to fully expect a three-way security framework among each of us. However, we are taking steps whereby each of the countries understand responsibilities with respect to regional security, and we are advancing new areas of coordination and ballistic missile defense, again technology, that will be perceived as very substantial.”
The summit is also expected to lead to a joint statement between the nations that includes some language speaking to concerns about China’s desire to change the status of Taiwan.
The US, Japanese and South Korean joint statement is set to include language on maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, one of the officials said.
The exact language on that and other provisions are expected to be negotiated up to the last minute, but the language currently under consideration would be consistent with prior US positions on the subject, avoiding a sharp escalation in rhetoric with Beijing as Washington has been seeking to ease tensions.
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