Implications: The White House plays an essential role in mending ties between South Korea and Japan. The U.S. insistence on a stronger trilateral relationship creates a political imperative for the Blue House to more assertively push for mending ties with Japan. Unlike his predecessor, President Biden expressed support for closer ties between South Korea and Japan early in his term, characterizing the trilateral relationship as an important component of the wider U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Building on Biden’s vision of cooperation between the capitals, the intelligence chiefs of each nation held a meeting in early May to discuss the North Korean threat and other issues. Subsequently, the U.S. and ROK defense chiefs announced their intention to push for a trilateral meeting with the Japanese defense chief to discuss regional cooperation moving forward. Though relations between South Korea and Japan remain tense due to historical issues, U.S. interests may help mend ties for the sake of the respective countries’ good relations with Washington.
Context: Discussions between Biden and Suga in April centered on efforts to promote cooperation in strategic areas. This included partnership on technological areas like next-generation mobile networks. Similar discussions took place between Moon and Biden on May 21, with weight given to addressing the global semiconductor shortage. South Korean company Samsung is already one of the leading producers of semiconductor memory chips in the world and is committed to expanding its U.S. operations. As the United States looks to continue leading the technology frontier, the White House will increasingly look to allies with advanced industries like Japan and South Korea to safeguard the supply of commodities that make U.S. competitiveness possible.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Melissa Cho and Alexandra Langford. The image is from the flickr account of apcsspao. The picture shows then-U. S. Vice President Joe Biden visit to DKI APCSS in July 2016 to attend a trilateral meeting hosted by Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and Republic of Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam.