Written by Jacopo Maria Bosica
Edited by Miguel Andres Reyes Castro
Supervised by Cansu Macit Karaduman
On 18 August, U.S., Japanese and South Korean leaders held a trilateral summit at the Camp David presidential retreat, in Maryland, to agree on a new security pact to expand security and economic cooperation, while establishing a bulwark against the two greatest security threats in the Indo-Pacific region, i.e., North Korea and China (Baker, 2023). The choice of such setting had a two-fold significance: first, following the footsteps of the US-brokered peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978, it marked the opportunity for Tokyo and Seoul to consolidate a long-meditated rapprochement after decades-long grievances between them (Baker & Kanno-Youngs, 2023). In this line, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol decided, not without domestic discontent, to put past the memories of Japanese occupation in the early 20th century (Baker & Kanno-Youngs, 2023). Secondly, it reflected the relevance attached by President Joe Biden to the initiative, especially given China’s central focus of his foreign policy (Baker & Kanno-Youngs, 2023; Baker, 2023).
Such ‘political courage’ was crucial for the three states to touch bases: to begin with, they agreed on deeper military cooperation vis-à-vis China’s ‘dangerous and aggressive behaviour’ in the region (Cytera, 2023). In this regard, the Camp David Principles reiterated the unassailable nature of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait (White House, 2023). Furthermore, to increase their readiness to face more adventurism by Beijing, the three leaders pledged to foster ballistic missile cooperation, expand joint military exercises and build a trilateral hotline for crisis communications (Baker, 2023). The latter became relevant also vis-à-vis North Korea’s missile tests, as the U.S., Japan and South Korea committed to establish, by the end of 2023, a mechanism to exchange information on missiles launched by Pyongyang (Baker, 2023). Such ambitious initiatives were formalized into a ‘duty to consult’ and meet on an annual basis to coordinate responses to regional challenges, provocations, and threats affecting the countries’ collective interests and security (White House, 2023; Hunnicutt et al., 2023).
With security cooperation comes technology cooperation, where Japan and South Korea face the difficulty of phasing out economic ties with China (Cytera, 2023). Although Beijing proved a unifying force for Washington, Tokyo and Seoul around the objective of curbing Chinese access to advanced technology, and diplomatically influencing neighbouring countries, China remains the largest trading partner for Japan and South Korea (Swanson, 2023). To counter China’s technological potential, the latter are working on a semiconductor industrial policy with the U.S., while Seoul called for an innovative-technology alliance with Washington to build a ‘silicon shield’ to reinforce its presence in the South Pacific (Cytera, 2023). If uncertainty remains about the evolution of technology-related investment, the Camp David pact has triggered (or will trigger) reactions from China and North Korea, notwithstanding White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s clarification that the arrangement did not address any specific rival (Sevastopulo, 2023). On the one hand, Beijing has already viewed such cooperation efforts as the foundations for a ‘Pacific NATO’; on the other, U.S. officials expect Pyongyang to continue its ballistic tests and confrontational rhetoric (Euronews, 2023).
Baker, P. (2023, 18 August). The U.S. Japan and South Korea Form Security Pact. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/08/18/us/biden-news-camp-david.
Baker, P. & Kanno-Youngs, Z. (2023, 18 August). Looming Over a New Security Pact: China, North Korea and Donald Trump. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/18/us/politics/biden-japan-south-korea-summit.html.
Cytera, C. (2023, 21 August). Camp David Pact is About Defense – And Tech. Center for European Policy Analysis. https://cepa.org/article/camp-david-pact-is-about-tech-and-defense/.
Euronews. (2023, 19 August). US, Japan and South Korea agree to boost security ties at Camp David summit. Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/2023/08/19/us-japan-and-south-korea-agree-to-boost-security-ties-at-camp-david-summit.
Hunnicutt, T., Brunnstrom, D. & Shin, H. (2023, 18 August). U.S., Japan, South Korea form historic defence pact to counter China. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/9906552/us-japan-south-korea-defence-pact/.
Sevastopulo, D. (2023, 18 August). Camp David pact eases Japan-South Korea tensions. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/1e1652d5-452c-48fc-b726-1251b707c8e6.
Swanson, A. (2023, 18 August). The summit was not ‘anti-China,’ Biden said. But China loomed large. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/08/18/us/biden-news-camp-david/the-summit-was-not-anti-china-biden-said-but-china-loomed-large?smid=url-share.
White House. (2023, 18 August). Camp David Principles. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/08/18/camp-david-principles/.