Biden Hails New Security Ties With Japan, South Korea

President Joe Biden announced plans for annual leader-level meetings with Japan and South Korea as well as a new hot line for the allies to swiftly share intelligence at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David.

(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden announced plans for annual leader-level meetings with Japan and South Korea as well as a new hot line for the allies to swiftly share intelligence at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David.

“We met in this historic place to meet a historic moment,” said Biden at a joint press conference on Friday. “America’s commitment to both countries is ironclad. And my personal commitment to bringing these three nations together was real from the very beginning.”

Biden said the countries were also launching annual, multi-domain military exercises that would take their trilateral defense cooperation to unprecedented levels. The allies will also increase information sharing on North Korean missile launches and cyber activities. 

But the push to strengthen the partnership between the three industrialized democracies comes as former President Donald Trump has emerged as the frontrunner to challenge Biden, casting doubt on the long-term prospects of any unity efforts. Trump has vowed to undo many of Biden’s policies if he is returned to the White House, and his administration was marked by unprecedented engagement with the leaders of North Korea and China.

Recent polls have shown Biden and his predecessor virtually deadlocked in a hypothetical rematch of their bitterly contested 2020 contest. Asked if Trump would rip up the agreements if he wins the 2024 election, Biden sought to assure Japan and South Korea of the US commitment to their defense.

“There’s not much, if anything, I agree on with my predecessor on foreign policy,” Biden said. “His America First policy walking away from the rest of the world has made us weaker, not stronger.”

Biden said the steps would help all three countries as they confront mutual threats, including Chinese aggression in the Asia-Pacific and North Korea’s nuclear program. 

“What makes today different is it actually launches a series of initiatives that are actually institutional changes in how we deal with one another,” he added. “I think we’re going to keep it going and I think we’re going to benefit all of our countries.”

Pressure on China

The US-China relationship is at a critical moment as the Biden administration seeks to ramp up its economic pressure on Beijing. Biden last week imposed curbs on US investment in China in the semiconductor, quantum computing and artificial intelligence fields, part of a broad effort to restrict the country’s ability to develop new military and surveillance technologies.

The administration has also sought to make the US less dependent on Chinese supply chains, encouraging the domestic manufacture of semiconductors and clean-energy technology through tax breaks and subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act, two key pillars of the president’s economic agenda of Bidenomics.

Biden’s actions come at a sensitive time for China and its president, Xi Jinping.

Recent economic data paints a troubling picture of the Chinese economy, with sales, industrial production, and real estate investment all missing expectations. The benchmark for stocks traded in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index, is down more than 12% since January while the nation’s central bank has repeatedly cut key interest rates. That swoon has been driven by Country Garden Holdings Co., the real estate giant that has seen its market value collapse as it has posted billions of dollars of losses.

Biden has warned about the risks from China’s economic problems and said its ailing post-pandemic economy could prompt leaders in Beijing to make dangerous choices. At a fundraiser last week, he described the nation as a “ticking time bomb.”

Even as Biden has sounded alarms about the state of the Chinese economy – and as flaps over former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and Beijing’s deployment of a spy balloon that flew over the continental US have strained ties – the president has also sought to improve relations.

A series of top US officials have visited Beijing in recent months, and Biden notably did little to promote the executive order last week placing curbs on US investments. That could pave the way for a meeting between Biden and Xi this November at the APEC summit in San Francisco.

Biden said Friday he “expects and hopes” to follow up with Xi. The two have not spoken since meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022.

The commitments announced Friday stop short of a NATO-style mutual defense agreement, but nonetheless demonstrate the rapidly thawing ties between Tokyo and Seoul. 

Concerns over North Korea’s growing missile arsenal and China’s actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait have helped Japan and South Korea overcome decades of tensions stemming from the former’s colonial rule of the latter in the early 20th century.

The US, Japan and South Korea are releasing a joint statement reaffirming their support for stability in the Taiwan Strait amid Chinese vows to change the self-governing island’s status.

–With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron.

(Updates with additional details on US-China relations starting ninth paragraph)

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