Asia Security Summit: Japan, U.S., S. Korea Have Growing Role to Play Together

North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and China’s hegemonic moves are threatening security in Asia. To protect regional stability, it is essential for the three countries of Japan, the United States and South Korea to work together more closely.

The Asia Security Summit, where defense ministers and experts from the Indo-Pacific region discuss security issues, was held in Singapore. The conference is organized annually by a British policy research institute, and about 40 countries participated this year.

The main issues ministers and experts took up in their speeches and meetings included the Taiwan situation and issues related to the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

With China in mind, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mentioned “actions in this region that erode the status quo and threaten peace and stability.” On the other hand, Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun issued a warning to Washington. “Anyone who dares to separate Taiwan from China will only end up in self-destruction,” he said.

Last month, China conducted large-scale military drills around Taiwan. In the South China Sea, China Coast Guard vessels have repeatedly fired water at and collided with ships belonging to the Philippines, which is in a dispute with China over territorial rights there. Clearly it is Beijing’s self-righteous behavior that is raising tensions in the region.

Japan’s Defense Minister Minoru Kihara met with Austin and South Korean counterpart Shin Won-sik and agreed to conduct this summer for the first time a trilateral joint exercise that includes new fields such as cyber and space. They also agreed to “institutionalize” policy consultations and defense exchanges among the three countries.

North Korea is said to be stealing crypto-assets through cyber-attacks and using the funds to finance its nuclear and missile development. It is hoped that Japan, the United States and South Korea will share their knowledge to stop Pyongyang’s cybercrimes.

The three countries’ cooperation framework has been shaken by their respective political situations at home. It is important to institutionalize various types of defense cooperation and prevent setbacks.

In a separate meeting, Kihara and Shin agreed on measures to prevent a similar incident from what happened six years ago when a South Korean navy ship directed its fire-control radar at a Self-Defense Forces aircraft. The focus is on ensuring both Japan and South Korea adhere to the international code of conduct for avoiding collisions between naval vessels and aircraft.

It is problematic that South Korea still does not admit the facts of the issue. However, with North Korea stepping up its provocations, Kihara may have thought it necessary to bring the pending issue to a close and resume defense exchanges.

At a press conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who also attended the conference, stressed that China is supporting Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, calling it a “strategic mistake.”

It is significant that China was criticized by name by Zelenskyy at a place of key figures from various countries. China should be aware that it could lose international credibility if it does not review its ties with Russia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2024)