Camp David solidified trilateral ties that won’t be undone, says US ambassador to Japan

Posted on : 2023-12-06 17:22 KST Modified on : 2023-12-06 17:22 KST
Emanuel insisted that trilateral cooperation between the US, South Korea and Japan is sustainable, regardless of factors like a possible political comeback by Donald Trump
Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, speaks with Korean and Japanese reporters at the US Embassy in Tokyo on Dec. 5.
Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, speaks with Korean and Japanese reporters at the US Embassy in Tokyo on Dec. 5.

During a sit-down with journalists at the US Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel told reporters that the national security interests of the United States, Korea and Japan were “articulated in Camp David,” going on to say, “It's not dependent on the three leaders, being that at this stage because the security interests will carry it forward.”

Emanuel insisted that trilateral cooperation between the US, South Korea and Japan is sustainable, regardless of factors like a possible political comeback by Donald Trump, shifts in Korean and Japanese politics, and disagreements between Tokyo and Seoul on historical issues.

Emanuel mentioned that US national security adviser Jake Sullivan will visit Seoul to meet with his Korean and Japanese counterparts on Friday and Saturday. In the three months since the Camp David summit in August, the ambassador said, there have been not only conversations between heads of state, but strides made in terms of trilateral cooperation on military and economic matters.

“The Camp David Principles are embedded into the DNA of all three countries’ respective security and economic apparatuses and governments,” Emanuel told reporters. “Once it starts to take hold, once all three countries start to spend money, it’s very hard to rip that out of the system.”

The ambassador attributed the “gravitational pull” of the trilateral format to such a format suiting the interests of all three nations.

When a reporter pointed out that such a trilateral alliance only accelerates the trilateral cooperation of North Korea, China and Russia, Emanuel said, “I'm not sure President Xi and the Chinese Foreign Ministry and security advisers think what just happened between Russia and North Korea is a good thing,” emphasizing that there are limits to the trilateral cooperation between North Korea, China and Russia.

Noting that China, Russia and North Korea play a game of striving for “a broad exercise of power,” Emanuel countered that they “don't share strategic interests in the same collaborative, cooperative way that we [US, South Korea, Japan] do.”

When inquired about a lack of detailed solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue, he responded that it’s important to hold Russia accountable.

“Not only has Russia violated the United Nations Charter by invading Ukraine, they have now violated and upended the sanctions which they are party to,” he said, going on to say that Russia’s actions undermine the credibility of UN sanctions.

Regarding South Korea’s disagreements with Japan over historical issues, Emanuel replied that he wanted to be “careful” in his response as an outsider. “My experience with this is that it’s better that Japan and Korea talk to each other than through the United States. [But] we’re always present, we’re always available,” he said of the US’ role. “It takes a lot of work constantly. You just don't kind of come to an agreement. And then you’re done.”

Emanuel referred to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and China’s economic coercion as the “three Cs” that have greatly “altered the way we react to the world” throughout the past three years.

Once again, he stressed the threat posed by China and Russia. Emanuel claimed that the “overarching North Stars” that drove every major decision during the past 30 years were “cost and efficiency,” but that we need “new North Stars” in the form of “political sustainability, political stability, and economic sustainability.” He said that economic ties with China need to be approached on the basis of these “new North Stars.”

Emanuel was appointed to be the White House chief of staff during the Barack Obama administration. He has been serving as the US ambassador to Japan since last year, and has played a key role in enhancing trilateral cooperation between the US, South Korea and Japan.

By Park Min-hee, editorial writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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