President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David next month as a part of his effort to bring the key Asian allies closer, the White House announced Friday
“At the summit, the leaders will celebrate a new chapter in their trilateral relationship as they reaffirm their strong bonds of friendship and the ironclad alliances between the United States and Japan, and the United States and the Republic of Korea,” the White House wrote in a statement announcing the meeting. “The three leaders will discuss expanding trilateral cooperation across the Indo-Pacific and beyond – including to address the continued threat posed by the DPRK and to strengthen ties with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands.”
It’s the first visit to Camp David by a foreign leader since Biden took office, and the first since 2015 when former President Barack Obama was in office.
United States National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said the summit would reaffirm the “iron-clad alliances between the United States and Japan, United States and the Republic of Korea, and the blossoming of the relationship between Japan and the ROK under the extraordinary leadership of both President Yoon and Prime Minister Kishida.”
“They really have been extraordinary in the way they’ve tried to improve their bilateral relations,” Kirby said, during a call with reporters Friday.
As CNN previously reported, the leaders of South Korea and Japan promised to resume ties in a fence-mending summit in March – the first such meeting in 12 years – as the two neighbors sought to confront threats from North Korea and rising concerns about China. Mutual visits by Japanese and South Korean leaders had been suspended as ties soured over several issues, including a dispute over proper compensation of South Koreans who were forced to work in Japan during the Japanese occupation of South Korea in the early 20th century.
In recent years the often fraught relations have undermined efforts by the United States to present a united front against North Korea – and the growing assertiveness of Beijing.
The two East Asian neighbors have a long history of acrimony, dating back to Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula a century ago. The two normalized relations in 1965, but unresolved historical disputes have continued to fester, in particular over imperial Japan’s use of forced labor and so-called “comfort women” sex slaves.
Biden met with both leaders for a trilateral meeting in May 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan, during the G7 meeting and in June 2022 at the NATO summit in Madrid. He also visited both countries back-to-back in May, 2022.