President Yoon Suk-yeol waves as he boards the presidential jet at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam on Aug. 17 to head to the US for a trilateral summit with Japan. (Yonhap)
The leaders of South Korea, the US, and Japan will set up a cooperative body for regional security for the three countries at their summit in Camp David on Friday, South Korea’s presidential office announced Thursday. The three heads of state have agreed to adopt at least two documents after their summit, tentatively titled the “Camp David Principles” and the “Spirit of Camp David.” The looming specter of a new Cold War is likely to raise tensions in Northeast Asia.
Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of Korea’s National Security Office, made the announcement in a briefing at the presidential office in Yongsan on Thursday.
“The Camp David summit will be the moment at which South Korea, the US and Japan will evolve beyond their focus on the North Korean threat into a transregional cooperative body that will achieve freedom and peace throughout the Indo-Pacific region. It will seek to be a comprehensive body for cooperation not only in the area of national security but also in the areas of the economy, cutting-edge technology, public health, women’s rights and interpersonal exchange,” Kim said.
The plan outlined by Kim is for security cooperation — which has hitherto been split into the US’ separate alliances with South Korea and Japan — to be officially integrated into a cooperative body for the three countries.
President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office underlined the significance of the move, remarking that “Aug. 18, 2023, will go down as a watershed moment in the history of cooperation between our three countries.”
The presidential office rejected the interpretation that the three countries are setting up a quasi-alliance.
“This could be called a body for trilateral security cooperation in the sense that it will facilitate cooperation between the three countries when they discuss matters that are directly linked to their national security. But it would not be logically correct to call it a trilateral alliance between Korea, the US and Japan,” said a senior official in the Yoon administration.
Kim highlighted the fact that the steps the Yoon administration has taken to improve Korea’s relationship with Japan had set the stage for trilateral cooperation.
“The groundbreaking improvement in Korea-Japan relations is what enabled Korea, the US and Japan to open up a new horizon. The fact is that debates about historical issues, far from resolving those issues, have only blocked the path forward for our shared future,” he said.
The three leaders have agreed to release at least two documents after the meeting. The “Camp David Principles” will contain a basic roadmap, while the “Spirit of Camp David” will amount to a joint statement.
“The ‘principles’ document will detail the principles of strengthening cooperation for the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region — including the Korean Peninsula, ASEAN and Pacific Island nations — and the whole world based on the joint values and norms of our three countries,” said Kim.
Kim went on to explain that the “spirit” document will deal with the establishment of a specific deliberative body representing the three countries’ shared vision, threats facing the region (as well as ASEAN and the Pacific Island nations), the issue of the war in Ukraine, joint exercises and extended deterrence, and ways to cooperate on economic security.
The presidential office mentioned the possibility of releasing one more document. The office also said that Yoon would be holding separate bilateral summits with Biden and Kishida on Friday and that the Koreans and Japanese had decided not to address the issue of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant during their summit.
Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday that Korea, the US and Japan had agreed to institutionalize high-level deliberative talks at four levels: national leaders, foreign ministers, defense ministers and senior national security officials.
“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,” said Kurt Campbell, who serves as coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the White House National Security Council, during an event hosted by the Brookings Institution the previous day.
Yoon departed for Washington on Thursday evening.
By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Lee Bon-young, Washington correspondent; Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent
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