July 21, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol is poised to attend a trilateral summit with his US counterpart Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the United States in August, according to Yoon’s office on Thursday.
“A meeting between leaders of South Korea, the US and Japan is to take place in the US,” the presidential office said in a statement.
Earlier on Thursday, a media report from Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun revealed that the trilateral meeting is expected to be held on Aug. 18 at Camp David, the US presidential retreat in Maryland that is about 100 kilometers from the White House. Yoon’s office said negotiations over details on the meeting are still underway.
“The exact date and venue for the meeting will be announced in the near future after arrangements between the three countries,” Yoon’s office said.
The presidential office chose to use the term “meeting” instead of “summit” in the Korean statement, in sync with the annual meeting of Korea, China and Japan since 1999, suggesting that Yoon’s talks with Biden and Kishida could become regular.
Yoon’s announcement comes two months after Biden invited Yoon and Kishida to Washington during a brief meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, in May.
If confirmed, the upcoming meeting will mark the fourth of its kind since Yoon took office in 2022. At the same time, it will become the first standalone summit between leaders of the three countries, distinguishing itself from the others as the previous trilateral meetings were held on the sidelines of international conferences like the G-7.
It will also be Yoon’s third visit to the US during his presidency, following his visit in April to meet with Biden and his participation at the United Nations General Assembly last year.
Since Yoon took office in May 2022, Yoon’s meetings with leaders of the US and Japan have become more frequent, in line with a thaw in relations between Seoul and Tokyo as Yoon and Kishida agreed to move on from the dispute over wartime forced labor.
Yoon last met Kishida on July 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania, on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Yoon’s last state visit to the US in April was the first by a Korean leader in 12 years.
The meeting is likely to revolve around ways to further enhance security cooperation to deter North Korea’s missile threat.
One of the key agendas could be the potential launch of the real-time missile warning data-sharing mechanism announced at a trilateral summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November.
In June, the defense ministers of South Korea, the US and Japan agreed to set up what is considered a major step to improve each country’s ability to detect and assess the threat posed by North Korea missiles, within this year.
Thursday’s statement echoes remarks by principal deputy national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo over the upcoming trilateral in the US next month.
“The issues of trilateral security cooperation, economic security and exchange could be broadly discussed” in the upcoming summit, Kim also told reporters in a briefing Tuesday.
If discussed in the upcoming trilateral talks, the strengthened security cooperation could be in line with Tuesday’s launch of the bilateral nuclear consultative group between South Korea and the US, to jointly coordinate the responses to deter nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
Washington earlier this week also deployed a nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine, the USS Kentucky, to Busan for the first time in over four decades. Yoon boarded the submarine Wednesday, becoming the first leader of another country to do so.
Such joint actions by Seoul and Washington follow the Washington Declaration in April, designed to strengthen extended deterrence of the two countries against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats to achieve peace.
Thursday’s announcement comes at a time when the security crisis surrounding the Korean Peninsula continues to escalate, as North Korea’s missile launches this year show no signs of waning.
One of the latest missiles North Korea fired was its newly developed Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, which Pyongyang confirmed last week was a solid-fuel missile. It traveled over 1,000 kilometers for about 74 minutes before landing in international waters between Japan and Russia.
Trilateral high-level talks over North Korea’s evolving provocations have been underway, including Thursday’s held in Nagano, Japan to denuclearize North Korea.
The talks will seek ways for trilateral efforts to cut North Korea’s “illicit” revenue streams, clamp down on cyber activities and close loopholes in sanctions to hamper the continuation of its ballistic missile programs, Kim Gunn, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, said in a speech.
Meanwhile, attention is also being paid to whether the upcoming meeting in August could lead to further stabilization of the critical industrial supply chain and help maintain technology leadership in the field of semiconductor chips and more.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington kicked off dialogue on economic security in February, and a second round took place Wednesday, as a follow-up to the Phnom Penh summit in November.
Yoon’s office said Wednesday’s talks of high-ranking officials from the three countries centered on economic security, development of quantum and space technology, cooperation to nurture new technologies and standardize digital infrastructure and protection of sensitive technology, among other topics.