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Japan’s Kishida Hopes to Strengthen Ties with US, South Korea at Summit

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday he hopes to discuss further strengthening of three-way strategic cooperation with leaders of the United States and South Korea at a summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden at Camp David later this month.

The Aug. 18 summit with Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is the first stand-alone summit among leaders of the three countries, not in connection with international meetings.

The summit is also the latest sign of warming ties between Tokyo and Seoul. Both governments have moved to set aside decades-long tensions over wartime history, while Washington seeks to deepen its commitment in the Indo-Pacific region.

“I have high hopes that this summit meeting will further strengthen the foundation for strengthening ties with the United States and South Korea, which have been built up through multilayered efforts including at the summit level,” Kishida said, responding to a question about the summit, during a news conference Friday.

“On top of that, I expect we will further reinforce our strategic cooperation among the three countries, Japan, the United States and South Korea” as the three leaders discuss joint responses to North Korea’s threats and maintaining and strengthening a rules-based, free and open international order, Kishida said.

He declined to provide more details, saying he should avoid prejudging the outcome of the summit ahead of time.

The Biden administration has been urging stronger economic and defense ties between South Korea and Japan as it looks to bolster the region against China’s assertive territorial moves and economic influences, and to secure their cooperation in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Japan and South Korea are both key U.S. allies and their cooperation is key to Washington’s security strategy in the Indo-Pacific as tensions grow with China, North Korea and Russia.

Ties between Japan and South Korea have rapidly thawed since earlier this year, largely because of Washington’s pressure and their shared sense of urgency over escalating regional security threats.

The improved ties between Tokyo and Seoul, and Japan’s new security and defense strategies are apparently making the stronger trilateral partnership possible. Under the new strategies issued in December, Kishida’s government pledges a drastic military buildup with strike capabilities and doubling defense spending in a major break from Japan’s postwar self-defense-only principle.

Japan, the United States and South Korea have agreed to start sharing real-time data on North Korean missile launches by the end of this year, as their trilateral cooperation is increasingly important amid growing nuclear and missile threats from the North. Washington and Seoul have also agreed to step up their nuclear deterrence cooperation, and Japan also wants stronger extended deterrence by U.S. nuclear weapons.

After the White House announcement of the summit, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, posted a message on Twitter that the upcoming summit promises to make history and “will lead to a strategic paradigm shift” as the three countries form “a united front for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

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