US, Japan, South Korea to announce deeper defense cooperation at Camp David summit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States, Japan and South Korea are expected to announce plans for expanded military cooperation on ballistic missile defenses and technology development in the face of growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear program when the countries’ leaders gather at Camp David for a summit Friday, according to two senior Biden administration officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning for the summit, said the announcements will be part of a broad set of initiatives that will be unveiled as President Joe Biden hosts Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for the one-day gathering at the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

The summit is the first Biden has held during his presidency at Camp David and comes amid a thaw in the historically complicated relationship between Japan and South Korea. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The White House is looking to build on the recent diplomatic momentum and aims to use the summit for “institutionalizing, deepening and thickening the habits of cooperation” between the three countries as they face an increasingly complicated Pacific, one official said.

Earlier Monday, North Korea state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered a drastic increase in production of missiles and other weapons. Kim’s push to produce more weapons comes as U.S. officials believe Russia’s defense minister recently talked with North Korea about selling more weapons to Russia for its war with Ukraine.

Japan and South Korea have been rapidly mending their ties as they deepen three-way security cooperation with Washington in response to growing regional threats from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.

The ties have improved rapidly since March after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government announced an initiative to resolve disputes stemming from compensation for wartime Korean forced laborers.

Last month, Japan reinstated South Korea as a preferred nation with fast-track trade status, ending a four-year economic row that was further strained during their bitter historic disputes. The three countries also announced in June that they would begin to share in real-time early warning threat data of North Korean missile launches by the end of the year.

Biden plans to take Kishida and Yoon on a walk of the Camp David grounds and will host the leaders for an intimate lunch, the officials said. While Biden will hold one-on-one conversations with both leaders, the three leaders will spend the bulk of the visit together, the officials said.

One official said the gathering at Camp David is meant to drive home that the progress made between South Korea and Japan is a “big deal” and that it’s critical that the relationship “only move forward.”

The leaders are expected to be dressed in shirtsleeves without ties for the private portions of Friday’s Camp David meetings. The leaders are also expected to take part in a joint news conference at the end of the summit.

Camp David has been the site of significant moments of diplomacy.

In the midst of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at the retreat — then known as Shangri-La — for planning of the Italian campaign that would knock Benito Mussolini out of the war.

President Jimmy Carter hosted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in September 1978 for talks that established a framework for a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in March 1979.

President Bill Clinton in 2000 brought then-Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in an unsuccessful bid for a conflict-ending accord.

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