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September 06, 2023

To secure US-Japan-ROK gains from Camp David, bring South Korea to the Quad

By Joshua Fitt

On a warm August afternoon in Virginia, beneath a lush canopy of ash trees, President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, and President Yoon Suk Yeol convened to show the world that their response to adversity is unity. In contrast to the gridlock that has characterized the nadir in Japan-ROK relations since 2018, the Spirit of Camp David charts a course for the US-Japan-ROK trilateral relationship predicated on steadfast alignment in the face of unprecedented threats. Among the summit’s initiatives is a plan to regularize trilateral ballistic missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises—a response to North Korea’s record-breaking tempo of provocative missile tests over the past year and a stark reminder of the stakes underpinning the trilateral relationship.

The tenor of Japan-ROK ties habitually fluctuate, but the Quad could bring structural support to the relationship.

Considering the backdrop of a deteriorating security environment in the Indo-Pacific, this turning point is vital to the sustainability of the regional order. However, while the latest round of Japan-ROK rapprochement is promising, it remains fragile, and therefore the progress of the US-Japan-ROK trilateral could unravel, like after similar past breakthroughs. Still, by articulating a common vision and actionable agenda, the United States, Japan, and South Korea are undeniably closer to escaping the well-trod cycle of previous decades. To continue making progress toward a relationship that will survive the next resurgence in Japan-ROK bilateral tensions, additional efforts must both increase the political costs of regression and demonstrate to domestic populations that these relationships can be sources of strength and catalysts for prosperity.

Read the full article from PacNet.

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