Biden seeks to deepen ties with South Korea and Japan with Camp David summit

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President Biden will host the leaders of South Korea and Japan at Camp David next month, in a summit aimed at showing solidarity among Indo-Pacific countries in the face of threats from North Korea, the People’s Republic of China and fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol at Camp David on August 18, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Friday.

The summit will focus on expanding cooperation in the region, including to counter threats from North Korea related to its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons program, the statement read, and to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian Nations and the Pacific islands.

“The summit will advance a shared trilateral vision for addressing global and regional security challenges, promoting a rules-based international order, and bolstering economic prosperity,” Jean-Pierre said.

Biden has placed a priority on deepening ties with Japan and South Korea, in particular, as key defense partners guarding against North Korea’s nuclear threats, China’s ambitions in the region, and as part of a democratic coalition supporting Ukraine.

The Camp David summit follows North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un hosting Chinese and Russian delegations in Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice with South Korea that froze the Korean War.

Yet Japan and South Korea are not easy partners for each other. The two Pacific countries have worked to ease tensions, with support by the U.S., and to overcome historic grievances stemming from Japan’s occupation of the peninsula in the early 20th century.

In March, Kishida and Yoon held the first bilateral summit between the two nations in over a decade. But experts have cautioned against calling it a breakthrough, warning that Korean public opinion views the Japanese as not going far enough in addressing crimes committed during the occupation.

Still, the Biden administration has put intense efforts in increasing and encouraging cooperation between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

Biden hosted Yoon for a State visit in April and the two countries signed the “Washington Declaration,” that brought South Korea under the protection of America’s nuclear-weapons umbrella, aimed at deterring North Korea from ever using a nuclear weapon.

Biden met with Kishida in Washington in January and as members of the Group of 7 nations, have worked closely together to support Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia.

During the G7 leaders summit hosted in Hiroshima in May, the joint communique also included a reference to maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” a reference to concerns that China is building up its military to carry out an invasion or enact a blockade around the island.

The U.S. has welcomed Japan’s commitment to increase its defense spending over the next five years for an estimated total $318 billion.

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