U.S.-South Korea-Japan summit starting at Camp David

U.S.-South Korea-Japan summit starting at Camp David

President Biden is welcoming the leaders of South Korea and Japan to the Camp David presidential retreat to launch an era of trilateral cooperation in the face of rising Chinese and North Korean aggression, though the White House says the trio will stop short of forging a mini NATO.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s helicopter touched down in rural Maryland on Friday, followed by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a half hour later. Each leader was treated to an honor guard and sported retreat-style clothing — blazers and no neckties.

Mr. Biden wants to foster American ties with both Asian allies while accelerating efforts that Seoul and Tokyo have made to improve their own relations.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the formation of a formal trilateral alliance with a mutual defense pact — akin to the sprawling North Atlantic Treaty Organization — is not an explicit goal of the summit. Rather, he said, the three countries aim to deepen their cooperation and consult on defense needs and crises that arise in the Indo-Pacific.

The summit marks the first time a foreign leader has visited Camp David during the Biden presidency and the first, overall, since President Barack Obama hosted the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations in 2015 to try and ease their concerns about the Iran nuclear deal.

“This is a big deal. It is a historic event and it sets the conditions for a more peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific and a stronger and more secure United States of America,” Mr. Sullivan said.

He noted that Mr. Biden hosted both leaders early in his administration and made visits to Japan and South Korea a priority when he toured Asia.

“President Biden has really worked to strengthen and modernize our bilateral alliances to take them to new heights. I think it would be fair to say that these alliances are stronger than they have been at any point in modern memory,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We’re opening a new era, and we’re making sure that era has staying power.”

At Camp David, the leaders are discussing North Korea’s frequent missile tests and ways to improve their crisis communication, early warning systems and coordinated military drills.

There is speculation that Pyongyang might rebuke the U.S. and its Asian neighbors by conducting a missile launch around the time of the Camp David summit.

Mr. Sullivan said the intelligence community is taking a “hard look” at a potential link between Russia and North Korea in boosting their military capability, as Pyongyang works to improve its missiles and Moscow seeks support for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia would be flouting, and in flagrant violation of, U.N. Security Council resolutions. I am not asserting that that is the case today,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I am saying it is a matter of concern and it is a matter we are very much looking into.”

Also Friday, the leaders are discussing China’s increased activity in the Pacific and ways to maintain peace in Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.

China this week bristled at the three-nation summit.

“China opposes relevant countries forming various cliques and their practices of exacerbating confrontation and jeopardizing other countries’ strategic security,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Tuesday. “We hope the countries concerned will go with the trend of the times and do something conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity.”