South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed Friday to consult with one another in the event of a common threat, elevating their trilateral partnership to a new level amid security and economic challenges posed by North Korea and China.
The three leaders reached the agreement during a trilateral summit held at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, calling it the "Commitment to Consult Among Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States," in what South Korean officials said was the first such commitment among the three nations.
The agreement underscored the urgency of jointly responding to common challenges, such as North Korea's nuclear threat and supply chain disruptions, after years of historical tensions between Seoul and Tokyo prevented deeper cooperation at the trilateral level.
"We, the leaders of Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States, commit our governments to consult trilaterally with each other, in an expeditious manner, to coordinate our responses to regional challenges, provocations, and threats affecting our collective interests and security," the document said, referring to South Korea by its formal name. "Through these consultations, we intend to share information, align our messaging, and coordinate response actions."
The document did not specify the type of threat or challenge that will trigger the commitment to consult, but a South Korean presidential official cited examples such as trade disputes, a North Korean missile threat, a serious provocation at sea, or any threat in or outside the region.
Also, in the event one country decides not to share information because it deems a particular threat to not be a threat to itself, it will have no obligation to do so, the official said.
"Our countries retain the freedom to take all appropriate actions to uphold our security interests or sovereignty," the document read, noting the commitment would not supersede any obligations under the alliance treaties between South Korea and the U.S. or between the U.S. and Japan, or give rise to rights or obligations under international or domestic law.
The Commitment to Consult was one of a series of agreements reached by the three leaders at their summit. The overarching agreement, contained in a joint statement titled "The Spirit of Camp David," called for holding annual trilateral meetings among the three countries' leaders, foreign ministers, defense ministers and national security advisers, as well as the first trilateral meeting between their finance ministers.
The leaders agreed to launch an annual Trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue to coordinate implementation of their Indo-Pacific approaches and to discuss ways to coordinate their efforts to counter disinformation, while also welcoming the trilateral development policy dialogue planned for October.
The three countries announced plans to hold trilateral defense exercises on an annual basis and operationalize their real-time sharing of missile warning data on North Korea before the end of the year. They are committed to pursuing enhanced ballistic missile defense cooperation to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and agreed to establish a new trilateral working group to combat North Korean cyber threats and block its cyber-enabled sanctions evasion.
In addition, the three countries agreed to strengthen cooperation to improve the human rights situation in North Korea and resolve the issues of abductions, detainees and unrepatriated prisoners of war.
The joint statement expressed the three countries' shared concerns about "actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order," recalling their individually announced positions on the "dangerous and aggressive behavior supporting unlawful maritime claims" by China in the South China Sea.
"We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the waters of the Indo-Pacific," the statement said, adding the leaders reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. "There is no change in our basic positions on Taiwan, and we call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues."
The three leaders pledged to continue to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.
"We commit to continue providing assistance to Ukraine, imposing coordinated, robust sanctions on Russia, and accelerating the reduction of dependency on Russian energy," the statement said.
Issues of economic security were also discussed in detail, with the three leaders committing to work closely to launch pilot programs for early warning systems about supply chain shortages. The three sides agreed to cooperate on supply chain resilience, especially on semiconductors and batteries; technology security and standards; as well as clean energy and energy security, among other areas.
They further agreed to strengthen cooperation to prevent their cutting-edge technologies from being illegally exported or stolen abroad.
A third document outlining the guiding principles for trilateral cooperation, called "Camp David Principles," was also adopted at the summit.
The principles provide the basis for the agreements in the Spirit of Camp David joint statement.
Source: Yonhap News Agency