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EDITORIAL | Japan, South Korea, US to Jointly Respond Against Pyongyang Menace 

On the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, the Japan, South Korea, US leaders declare they are "more aligned than ever" in responding to North Korea's provocations.

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South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol, US President Joe Biden, and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida make remarks at the Japan-US-South Korea summit meeting on November 13 in Phnom Penh (Pool photo).

Issuing an unusual Japan, South Korea, US joint statement, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, and United States President Joe Biden were busy on the sidelines of the just-concluded ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  

Announcing their intention to become "more aligned than ever," the three leaders were responding to provocations by North Korea, including nuclear tests and missile launchings. 

The three leaders met each other separately as well as together.

An unprecedented joint declaration was issued following the trilateral meeting of the Japanese, South Korea, and US leaders on Sunday, November 13. It criticized the recent spate of North Korean missile launchings. 

If Pyongyang conducts its seventh nuclear test, the three leaders warned, it would face a "strong and resolute response" from the international community. 

Just as with its nuclear tests, North Korea's ballistic missile tests are in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. They are blatantly strong-armed threats to global and regional peace and security. 

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Japan needs to bolster its own defenses. And the acquisition of a counter-attack capability by the Self-Defense Forces would no doubt be an effective way to dissuade aggressors from attacking Japan. 

From left, South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol, US President Joe Biden, and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida meet in a substantive Japan-US-South Korea trilateral summit in Phnom Penh on November 13 (Pool photo.)

Trilateral Meeting of the Minds

Multilateral collaboration is also crucial. NATO is a 30-nation-strong mutual alliance among North American and European countries. Under it, if one member is attacked, that is considered an attack on all signatories to the treaty. 

Japan does not belong to a comprehensive multilateral defense arrangement like NATO. The United States remains its principal ally. And Australia might be considered a quasi-ally. 

In addition to these bilateral ties, Japan is also a member of the Quad framework along with the US, Australia, and India. Tokyo is thus pursuing complex efforts on the defense front. 

It goes without saying that a trilateral framework involving the three nations is crucial for responding to the ongoing threat from North Korea. The four summit meetings held by the leaders of the US, South Korea, and Japan in Cambodia, both bilateral and trilateral, were of great significance in signaling their determination to respond with solidarity to the menace of Pyongyang. 

Issuing a joint statement after the trilateral meeting, Kishida, Yoon, and Biden made clear that the three nations would work to enhance deterrence. The leaders mentioned the "nuclear umbrella" provided by the United States to Japan and South Korea in their statement. And they promised to immediately "share missile warning data in real time."  

The joint statement added that their concerns were not limited to North Korea. All three agreed to jointly pursue a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and work closely together in implementing related strategies. 

Also worth noting was the specific reference to the "importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." 

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Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol (right) at Phnom Penh, Cambodia on November 13 (© the Cabinet Public Relations Office)

Bilateral Meeting of Leaders of Japan and South Korea

The Kishida-Yoon meeting was the first Japan-South Korea summit meeting in three years. In it the two leaders agreed to work for an early resolution to the issue of "former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula," although details were lacking. It should be remembered that all issues of Japanese compensation to South Korea were resolved by the Japan-ROK Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims. Any additional claims should be regarded as a domestic issue in South Korea. 

It might be said that the Japan-South Korea summit meeting finally came about because of the pressing need to respond to North Korea.

For Japan, it is useless to consider further concessions regarding thorny issues like the wartime labor question and the incident in which a South Korean Navy radar locked on to a Japanese patrol aircraft. 

It is high time that Seoul made concrete moves to settle these problems. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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