Summits tend to become historical for several reasons. The three-nation summit hosted by American president Joe Biden in his wooded country home in Camp David in Maryland on August 18th enters popular diplomatic lore for plenty of reasons. Two stand out from them. One, the three participating summiteer nations – Japan, South Korea and the United States – are all industrial powerhouses. Two, their proposed common purpose is to forge an allied front against the region’s autocrats.
Early Days to Make a Comparison
Presenting a united front has become imperative for the three summiteers. They are driven by the desire to protect the world, particularly themselves, from a territory-lusting Russia, an ever-threatening China and a permanently-snarling North Korea. While these three rogue nations are styling themselves after the diabolic Axis that triggered the second world war, the three summiteers are now rising to demonstrate they are together as an Allied force. https://poliphoon.com/the-rise-of-the-new-fascist-axis/
It is still early days to make such a comparison. It is premature to liken Camp David to Yalta, the conference that brought the three allies of the second world war together in 1945 for concerted action against the Germans-led Axis. Yet, the vague similarities between David Camp and Yalta were not lost on the diplomats. As the summit swears to focus also on the historical grievances of South Korea and Japan, the hopes for peace are on a new high. https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/08/10/why-joe-biden- will-host-japan-and-south-koreas-leaders-at-camp-david
Video Courtesy: YouTube/The White House
The Summit has Many Other Firsts
As the summiteers meet in Camp David, Mr Biden comes determined to forge and fortify a new trilateral alliance with Japan and South Korea. This American determination fills the eyes of peaceniks around the world with visions of political strife of generations between Japan and South Korea giving way now to mutual confidence-building security measures to counter the ever-snarling China and North Korea.
Mr Biden deserves largely the credit for bringing the heads of Japan and South Korea together. This is the first-ever exclusive dedicated summit between Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, hosted by Mr Biden. Again, this reflects America’s rising stake in global peace. The summit has many other firsts against its date in the calendar. Mr Biden has invited foreign leaders for the first time to Camp David. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/08/17/politics/joe-biden-camp- david-japan-south-korea/index.html
Uncanny Timing is Inflating Hopes
Going on, the three political heads are meeting with the aim of forging a united front, again for the first time, against Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un, the three personified threats to global peace. However, Mr Biden knows exactly how the roads winding through Camp David are not filled with roses. Historic hate between Japan and South Korea, worsened by former’s 35-year bloody occupation of the Korean Peninsula, may rise to the surface.
Mr Biden is not losing hope however. He is guided by Mr Yoon’s latest efforts towards forging peace with Japan. As this much-lauded rapprochement has succeeded in moving the needle of dynamics in northeast Asia of late, Mr Biden’s choice of time for this Camp David summit between the three is perfect. The uncannily focused timing is making hopes soar for a permanent united front in Asia, involving the three nations, against the emerging new Axis. https://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/d00901/
Not as Elaborate as Article 5
The unity the American-led trio have in mind is not just in defence. The alliance foresees collaboration in technology and education too. As a first step, the trio signed a formal ‘commitment to consult.’ The diplomatic jargon might look like the summit is trying to do a NATO. With this commitment, the trio agree to consider any security threat to any one of them as a threat to all of them calling for mutual consultations on how to respond.
Again there is a similarity here between second world war and this Camp David summit. Though the Commitment-to-Consult pact is not as elaborate as NATO’s Article 5, it will warrant the trio to act in tandem. The Commitment will thus ensure concerted action by the three against external threats to them or to even one of them. Moreover, the agreement would usher in cooperation on ballistic missiles, an area where Japan and South Korea are not so strong. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_110496.htm
China Squeaks With Displeasure
Ballistic defence apart, the Camp David pact will cover annual three-way military exercises. The aim is to create a framework for nuclear and security assistance in South-East Asia and the Pacific islands. The trio plan to launch the first trilateral hotline between them for instant communication. They plan to include in the pact commitment to annual meetings. These initiatives should fortify their unity, which was already initiated by Mr Biden in his Washington Declaration of 2023. https://poliphoon.com/the- weasel-declaration/
However, Japan may turn into a roadblock while creating a nuclear framework. The country hasn’t forgotten Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If Mr Kishida refuses to take part in the creation of this nuclear framework, it would give rise to talks among the targeted dictators that America is arm-twisting Japan and South Korea to collaborate with it to subdue them. Proving the Cassandras right, China began to cry foul, even before the summit could begin. https://www.upr- info.org/sites/default/files/country-document/2023- 03/JS12_UPR42_JPN_E_Main.pdf
Rubbing Salt into a Wet Scar
A provoked China is already asking is this Camp David summit a mini NATO. The Party mouthpieces in China are going to town with the theory that the summit is inimical to regional security. Though Japan and South Korea are ready to take China’s comments with liberal doses of salt, they are aware of China’s economic power in the region. This is why they will not swap China as a trading partner, despite attendant issues.
Worsening the scenario, China and Russia held joint military drills soon after Camp David’s trilateral missile drills. Rubbing more salt into a wet scar, North Korea welcomed recently high-level Russian and Chinese delegations for a military parade in capital Pyongyang. Yet, something like Camp David would have been unthinkable even two years ago. This is why this Camp David summit shows how insecure Japan and South Korea feel after Russia’s war in Ukraine. https://www.ft.com/content/1e1652d5-452c-48fc-b726- 1251b707c8e6
How China is Becoming Central to Policy
It also shows how central is China to Mr Biden’s foreign policy. Mr Biden had demonstrated his thinking on China before too. He was the architect of the three-way security arrangement with Australia and Britain, which he signed. He reinforced this Quad formed by the United States, India, Australia and Japan. He raised the presence of America in the Philippines. Finally, he set up the ‘inadequate’ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework with 14 nations. https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/05/27/indo-pacific-economic- framework-ipef-biden-asia-trade/
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
These initiatives reflect Mr Biden’s continuing desire to bolster the America-led alliances in the region. It is unsurprising that three of his first four state dinners honoured regional leaders. In April, it was Mr Yoon, in June it was India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and in October it was Australia’s prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Mr Biden is now planning a visit to India in September. This is how he is trying to hammer new partnerships in the region and widen partnerships with Japan and South Korea. His idea is to protect the region from dictators and demagogues.