August 18, 2023 13:17
The trilateral summit between the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan today at the U.S. presidential retreat of Camp David is a milestone not only for Northeast Asia but global politics. The three allies, which share the principles of liberal democracy, plan to set up solid breakwaters in security, industry and technology based on their shared values to respond to threats posed by authoritarian regimes.
The meeting takes place as North Korea, China and Russia strengthen ties against the backdrop of China's increasingly dictatorial rule and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, stressing their "comradeship forged in blood," while Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his defense minister to Pyongyang to tout their ties. Presidents Yoon Suk-yeol and Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must send a strong message to Kim warning against the consequences of misjudgment. The three leaders should also consider reviving the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) that was launched in 1999 as a means of institutionalizing the process of policy coordination on North Korean nuclear development.
Trilateral cooperation is essential at a time when the three countries are striving to secure strategic and future energy resources. Yoon proposed joint research in the areas of artificial intelligence, quantum energy and space development. But it should not stop there and be taken to the next level. It should also give South Korea an opportunity to effectively block North Korea's provocations, overcome complex crises and elevate its national stature.
The three-way summit was possible because Yoon made a future-oriented decision on the compensation of Korean laborers forced to work in Japanese factories during World War II, which had been the biggest stumbling block in bilateral relations. Former President Moon Jae-in's hostile policy toward Japan led to the deterioration of trilateral cooperation, which had served as the foundation for our country's development since Seoul-Tokyo ties normalized in 1965. But in contrast to the South Korean government's active approach to improving bilateral ties, Japan remains passive. If Seoul-Tokyo ties deteriorate again, the benefits of the trilateral alliance will be lost. That is why Kishida's response is important.
There is a possibility that former U.S. President Donald Trump, who was not keen on South Korea, could be re-elected in 2024 and set the U.S. back on an unpredictable course. Japan also faces the prospect of general elections due to Kishida's declining approval rating. It is crucial to institutionalize and coordinate trilateral cooperation so they can withstand leadership changes. The biggest achievement of the Camp David summit would be cementing a three-way cooperation system that cannot be unraveled by anyone.
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