On July 27, 1953, military commanders from the United States, North Korea and China signed an armistice agreement that ended the hostilities of the Korean War. The parties agreed to a “complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” They also recommended holding a “political conference” within three months for “the peaceful settlement of the Korean question.” After 70 years of truce, however, peace on the Korean Peninsula is still elusive.
While last week’s summit of U.S., South Korean and Japanese leaders may have been historic, the three countries hope “to really institutionalize trilateral cooperation going forward” through joint diplomatic and security initiatives that present “a stronger, united front” in the Indo-Pacific, says USIP's Mirna Galic.
After months of steadily increasing diplomatic exchanges — and a historic thaw in tensions between South Korea and Japan — President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David for a trilateral summit on August 18. The three leaders have previously met on the sidelines of larger multilateral forums, such as last year’s NATO summit, but the Camp David meeting marks the first standalone leader-level summit between the three countries.
To increase understanding of these changes and their impacts, USIP convened a working group consisting of experts from NATO countries and from NATO’s formal partner countries in the Indo-Pacific: Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, which are informally known as the Indo-Pacific Four (or IP4).
South Korea and Japan normalized relations in 1965, but unresolved historical disputes continue to undermine genuine bilateral reconciliation and optimal diplomatic, security and economic cooperation. Past efforts, both between the two countries and trilaterally with the United States, to help improve relations have generally emphasized a “future-oriented” approach that focused on common security and economic interests.