'Something Special' Is About to Go Down at Camp David

In rare summit at Maryland retreat, President Biden, Japan PM, South Korean president to meet
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2023 8:23 AM CDT
In Rare Camp David Summit, 3 Nations Will Gather
President Joe Biden, left, talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ahead of a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 21.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

On Friday, President Biden will host a summit at Camp David with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, "bridging generations of friction between the two Asian powers to forge mutual security arrangements in the face of an increasingly assertive China," reports the New York Times. The paper notes this will be the first time Biden has extended an invite to the rural Maryland retreat to foreign leaders, and the first time the three nations have officially gathered to meet outside of the sidelines of larger international get-togethers. To put that friction in context, the Wall Street Journal notes that "two years ago Tokyo and Seoul were barely on speaking terms." Among the items on Friday's agenda: talks on working together on ballistic missile defense, growing the three nations' joint military exercises, and setting up a secure "trilateral hotline" that they can jump on in case of a crisis. More on the summit:

  • US statement: "Japan and South Korea are core allies—not just in the region, but around the world," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week, per the Guardian. He noted that the summit would signify a "new era in trilateral cooperation."
  • 'Rare gift' of a Camp David gathering: That's how it's framed by NPR, which notes that the Maryland presidential retreat holds "a special place in US diplomacy." "The leaders of Japan and South Korea know that this is something special" and that "the president only does this on certain occasions," says Jeffrey Hornung, a senior political scientist for the Rand Corporation. A senior official in the Biden administration says the president opted to meet at Camp David "to demonstrate that the three countries have reached a new stage in their relationship," per the news outlet.

  • 'Bidenomics' on the hot seat: Biden has placed the US economy at the center of his reelection campaign, but South Korea and Japan may give him a hard time at the summit over how US economic policies affect their region. One of their issues, per the Washington Post: the Inflation Reduction Act Biden signed last year, which tackles climate change and restricts tax credits for electric vehicles to ones made in North America only. Although many of the Biden administration's moves have been made to counter Chinese manufacturing efforts, Seoul and Tokyo fear they could be hurt by them, too.
  • Slew of ships: Japan expressed "grave concern" at the sighting of nearly a dozen Russian and Chinese ships, some destroyers, on Thursday, the eve of the summit, sailing between its southern Okinawa and Miyako islands. CNN notes it's the first time vessels from those two nations have appeared in that body of water. Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed the ships were part of a joint patrol, exercises that in the past Japan has said were "clearly intended as a show of force against Japan."
  • Reticence on China: Politico notes that the subject of China remains a sticky one, and that diplomats from the three nations were still debating in the 11th hour whether to directly mention China as a threat to regional stability, on par with North Korea, in its summit documents. "One of the issues that they're negotiating ... is whether or not we'll insert the word 'China'" in the final text, says a rep from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Beijing's reaction: On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry rep Wang Wenbin offered his thoughts on the summit at a news conference, per the Hill. "China opposes relevant countries assembling exclusionary groupings and practices that intensify antagonism and undermine the strategic security of other countries," he noted. "China hopes that relevant countries will act in line with the trend of the times and contribute to regional peace, stability, and prosperity."
(Read more summit stories.)

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