By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) — The leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States will announce a multiyear exercise plan at their historic trilateral summit Friday, which will better prepare their countries against North Korea’s evolving military threats, a senior U.S. official said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will lay a “strong foundation” for strong trilateral cooperation that is built to last as they hold their first-ever stand-alone trilateral summit at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.
“We are going to lay a strong foundation for this trilateral partnership to make sure that it’s deep, it is strong and that it’s built to last,” he told a press briefing at Camp David, where the leaders of the three countries will meet later in the day.
“We are announcing significant steps to enhance trilateral security cooperation in the region in the face of North Korean provocations, including a multiyear exercise plan, deeper coordination and integration on ballistic missile defense, and improving information sharing and crisis communication and the policy coordination that goes along with responding to contingencies in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Sullivan explained the joint exercises component will be part of efforts to make sure the countries’ trilateral cooperation will last.
“We’ve had one-off exercises in the past, particularly in response to DPRK provocations,” he said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“What the leaders will commit to today is a multiyear planning process for the military exercises in all domains — air, land, sea, undersea, cyber, etc. — and that means that you will start to see a kind of momentum and inertia built into the planning processes of our three national security establishments with a horizon that extends not just a year out, three years out, but quite extensively,” he added.
The three-way summit, the fourth of its kind to be held in the Biden administration, has prompted speculation that the U.S. may be pushing to form a three-way alliance to counter China’s increasing assertiveness, as well as North Korea’s evolving threats and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Sullivan said the U.S. has not set an “explicit goal” to form a trilateral alliance.
“We have not set an end point about formal trilateral alliance. We have strong and deep and decadeslong bilateral alliances with both Japan and the ROK. We would like to see them continue to strengthen their cooperation, and for this three-way collaboration to get deeper and more institutionalized,” he told the press briefing.
Sullivan also dismissed China’s recent criticism that the U.S. seeking to build a mini NATO-like alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
“First, it’s explicitly not a NATO for the Pacific,” he said. “Second, we’ve had a combined 150 years of alliance cooperation with Japan and Korea, so this is, in that sense, the work that we are doing with these two countries is not new. What is new is that we are now stitching all of our work together to try to enhance regional stability and security.”
“And then, finally, I would just underscore that this summit today, this partnership is not against anyone. It is for something. It is for a vision of the Indo-Pacific that is free, open, secure and prosperous,” he added, insisting the trilateral cooperation will be a “net contributor” to security and stability in the region.
To this end, the three leaders will announce new initiatives that will benefit all countries in the Indo-Pacific, including China, according to Sullivan.
“I would just point out that in all of those decades of cooperation we’ve had with Japan and the ROK, we have helped safeguard stability and security in the Indo-Pacific, and that has created the conditions for all of the countries of the region to do well economically, by the way, including China,” he said.
“We are unveiling new economic and energy security initiatives, including an early warning mechanism for supply chain disruptions. Our three countries will announce new regional initiatives to build partner capacity throughout the Indo-Pacific, including in the maritime security domain, which will ensure that our cooperation benefits not just the people of our three countries, but the people of the entire region,” added Sullivan.
The top U.S. national security adviser declined to confirm recent reports suggesting the possible use of Russian missile technology in North Korean missiles, but said the U.S. is concerned and is taking a “hard look at” the possibility.
“We are concerned about the relationship, including the technology and security relationship between Russia and the DPRK,” he told the press briefing.
“Russia has been seeking to get material for its war effort in Ukraine from Pyongyang, from North Korea, and as they have done with other countries, like Iran, when they ask, they usually also offer some types of security cooperation in return. So that’s something that we are taking a hard look at,” he added.
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