JUST IN: U.S.-Japan-South Korea Summit a Game-Changer for Indo-Pacific, Officials Say

By Josh Luckenbaugh

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The Aug. 18 summit at Camp David between the leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea will mark a fundamental shift in the trilateral relationship between the three countries and for the Indo-Pacific region as a whole, U.S. officials said Aug. 16.


The summit comes amid deepening concerns about China, “whose actions have demonstrably changed in recent years in ways that threaten” the security of the Indo-Pacific, said Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell.


Many countries in the region “believe that the last 40 or 50 years are some of the best years in the history of the Indo-Pacific — remarkable prosperity, tremendous wealth creation, tremendous innovation and integration, lifting billions of people out of poverty,” Campbell said during a Brookings Institution event. “But I think many of these countries believe that steps that China is taking won't just amend the system but will destroy it or make it much less viable as an institution to propel prosperity and peace.”


Additionally, recent missile tests conducted by North Korea show the country is taking steps “to improve [its] military and nuclear capabilities,” he said. 


The upcoming summit will aim to prove the United States, Japan and South Korea have the “confidence to work and act together to sustain a system — that will still evolve in important ways — but to sustain a system built on the rule of law, on freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes and understanding that the American role is critical in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.


Mira Rapp-Hooper, the senior director for East Asia and Oceania for the National Security Council, said the three countries have previously committed to sharing “early missile warning data” with one another, and the summit will confirm “we're well on our way to being able to do that, as well as make progress in a number of other information sharing areas that allow us to pull data and information to better understand the picture that we are facing.”


Other initiatives that will come out of the summit include “a more comprehensive exercise program” and “cooperation on measures that are intended to strengthen extended deterrence and improve stability,” Rapp-Hooper said.


Campbell said that going forward, the three countries will plan to hold a trilateral summit annually as well as increase lines of communication.


“We're going to invest in technology to have a three-way hotline for the leaders and others inside their governments to communicate,” he said. “We are going to make commitments to dialogue and engage in critical circumstances. However, we're going to go beyond this — we're going to invest in people-to-people, in educational initiatives. We are going to try to invest in a much broader, deeper, thicker, trilateral set of engagements, which brings our peoples together in important ways.”


U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said: “This is a fundamental advancement of America's interests. China's entire strategy is based on the premise that America and its number one and number two ally in the region can't get together and get on the same page. That's fundamentally going to be different,” and deepening the trilateral relationship will “change the strategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific.”


To dissuade the threats of China and North Korea, the three countries must “have a wider version of what deterrence is,” Emanuel said. “It has an economic component, has a political component, has a diplomatic component, has a military component, [and] has an intelligence component.


“This, on the political, diplomatic side, is a major level of deterrence when you have this cooperation, this collaboration and this coordination going forward,” he continued. “It's a foundational piece that alters all calculations going forward.”


Campbell said: “What you will see … is a very ambitious set of initiatives that seek to lock in trilateral engagement, both now and into the future. And you will see it across many sectors: in the security realm, in technology, in education. I think all three leaders will embrace the potential for what is possible among our three countries.”


“We have the confidence that we will be able to sustain [and] build on what we believe will be a defining trilateral relationship for the 21st century,” he said.


Topics: Global Defense Market, International

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