Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

Joint Statement on the Trilateral United States-Japan-Republic of Korea Indo-Pacific Dialogue

Could the world be witnessing the slow motion formation of a new three country alliance?

US Department of State EAP Bureau
Trilateral negotiators meeting at the US State Department

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The inaugural Trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue between the United States Japan and South Korea was held on January 5, with this new format presented as a follow-up to the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit held at Camp David, hosted by President Joe Biden on August 18, 2023.

New meeting format or something far deeper?

Some analysts are interpreting the decisions taken in those two trilateral meetings as well as new trilateral military information sharing and coordination plans as the foundation of a developing new three-country alliance. The trilateral coordination plans – especially on regional and global issues described in the communique below – are certainly ambitious enough to generate major interest. However, only time will tell if we are witnessing the birth of a new regional alliance. Others will simply dismiss this communique as a laundry list of ongoing trilateral projects dressed up with some potential new initiatives.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson took almost immediately note of the January 6 trilateral joint statement, stating: “China has noted the US-Japan-South Korea dialogue and its resulting joint statement.”  The spokesperson continued: “We firmly oppose the attempt from these countries to cobble together exclusionary groupings in the name of cooperation, grossly interfere in China’s internal affairs, attack and smear China, and stoke confrontation and antagonism.”

Text of trilateral communique

Concluding the meeting, the following joint statement was released on January 6 by the US, Japan, and South Korean governments on the occasion of the Trilateral United States-Japan-Republic of Korea Indo-Pacific Dialogue:

The United States, Japan, and South Korean governments convened the inaugural trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on January 5. They were led by US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Japanese Deputy Minister/Director-General Kobe Yasuhiro, and South Korean Deputy Minister Chung Byung-won, the meeting built upon commitments made during the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David hosted by President Biden on August 18, 2023.

Before beginning their planned discussions, the three partners expressed their condolences for those who lost their lives in the recent earthquake in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture.

The representatives of the United States, Japan, and South Korea discussed each country’s Indo-Pacific approach and opportunities for cooperation, with an emphasis on partnership with Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries. They shared their respective assessments of geopolitical trends shaping the Indo-Pacific, highlighting the need for enhanced trilateral cooperation.

The respective parties reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate through regional forums and groupings, including ASEAN, the Friends of the Mekong, the Partners in the Blue Pacific, and the Pacific Islands Forum. They took note of the unique opportunity for trilateral cooperation at the UN in 2024 while the US, Japan, and South Korea hold seats on the Security Council.

They celebrated the success of the US, the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, in 2023. Each side said it looked forward to deepening their cooperation and alliance while South Korea hosts APEC in 2025, and applauded progress made on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity negotiations.

The three sides also discussed strategies to advance women’s economic empowerment and equitable participation in the digital economy and looked forward to the 2024 Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference in Washington, D.C. The trio also pointed to opportunities for further youth engagement with Pacific Island and Southeast Asian countries, supported in tandem by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, including the upcoming July 2024 Trilateral Global Leadership Youth Summit in the latter’s second-largest city, the Busan.

Additionally, the three emphasized the importance of collaborating to enhance regional economic security, resilience, and development, including taking action to combat climate change and engaging with Indo-Pacific partners on issues such as information and communications technology, cybersecurity, and emerging technology, including through the AI Safety Summit and the Global AI Forum hosted by the ROK in 2024. Furthermore, they reiterated their ongoing commitment to trilateral maritime security and law enforcement cooperation in international law, with a focus on support for capacity building in the region.

While focusing on the opportunities for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, the partners also noted with concern worrying trends in the region, including the worsening humanitarian, political, and economic crisis in Myanmar. Recalling the publicly announced positions of the three countries regarding the recent dangerous and escalatory behavior supporting unlawful maritime claims by Communist China in the South China Sea, they strongly reiterated their firm commitment to international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and they opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion anywhere in the waters of the Indo-Pacific. 

The American, Japanese, and South Korean delegations condemned North Korea’s continued development of its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs, growing military cooperation with Russia, and grave human rights violations and abuses. Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, saying conflict must be avoided to guarantee security and prosperity in the international community.

Recognizing the increased threat posed by foreign information manipulation, the United States, Japan, and South Korea discussed ways to counter these threats while respecting freedom of expression effectively.

The trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue is a new chapter in our countries’ partnership and an important step forward to strengthen and more closely align our policies globally. Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, Deputy Minister/Director-General Kobe, and Deputy Minister Chung reaffirmed their intent to continue to hold the trilateral dialogue annually and coordinate closely on issues of shared concern in the Indo-Pacific.

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