Efforts must be made to rebuild ties and enhance deterrence

If cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea remains stalled, it will be impossible to deal effectively with North Korea, which has repeatedly engaged in provocative actions. The resumption of dialogue should be used as an opportunity to promote cooperation and enhance deterrence.

The leaders of the three countries held talks in Madrid. They agreed that Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development poses a serious threat to the international community and agreed to promote trilateral security cooperation.

It was the first Japan-U.S.-South Korea summit in about five years. In the past, meetings have been held on the sidelines of international conferences, among other occasions, but talks had been postponed due to an increasingly anti-Japanese stance by the previous South Korean administration. This time, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, which has strongly sought the improvement of bilateral relations between Tokyo and Seoul, took the initiative in realizing the summit.

Although the meeting lasted only 20 minutes, the fact that the leaders of the three countries responsible for peace and stability in Asia shared their concerns about the security environment can be said to be a step forward to some extent. It is vital to link the summit to multilayered discussions and to raise the level of defense cooperation.

North Korea has carried out 17 missile tests this year. The launches have included missiles that fly on irregular trajectories and high-performance hypersonic missiles. Both are difficult to shoot down with current defense systems.

How will the growing threats be dealt with? There is a need to continue communications among defense authorities of the three countries and to look at ways to defend against and counter such threats.

Missile detection and tracking drills involving Aegis destroyers from the three countries have not been conducted for six years. The drills should be resumed to maintain capabilities to respond swiftly.

The effective use of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), under which Japan and South Korea share classified information, and the establishment of a system for information exchange will lead to the smooth functioning of the alliance between Japan and the United States, and between the United States and South Korea.

China has reportedly accepted North Korean workers in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions. It has also been said that China is involved in maritime smuggling activities.

It is inexcusable that China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has created a loophole in the sanctions. Japan, the United States and South Korea must unite and continue to urge China to fully implement the sanctions resolutions.

Ahead of the trilateral summit, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had a brief conversation with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May. It has been reported that Kishida said he hoped Yoon would make efforts to restore the strained Japan-South Korea relationship to a healthy one, while Yoon replied that he would resolve pending issues quickly.

In order to substantially improve relations between Japan and South Korea, it is essential for South Korea to respond appropriately to the issues of former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula and so-called comfort women in accordance with international law.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2022)