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Leaders' Meeting on North Korea Planned for August at Camp David

Repeated missile and other provocations by North Korea were discussed in the July 20 trilateral in Karuizawa and on the agenda for the leaders' August summit.



Sung Kim, (left) US Special Representative for North Korea, Takehiro Funakoshi, Japan's Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs, and Kim Gunn, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs. The three shake hands before talks on North Korea in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on July 20. (Pool photo).

No one knows for sure how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. But in June, a group of experts from Sweden put the figure at between 45 and 55. 

The same organization, SIPRI, counted 5,428 nuclear warheads in the arsenal of the United States. It noted that America has an extensive program to improve its missile and aircraft delivery systems and modernize its nuclear weapon production facilities.

Japan has no nuclear weapons, nor does it allow America to deploy any in the country. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has repeatedly said his duty is to warn of the dangers of nuclear war and urge the world to step back from the brink of conflict.

Nevertheless, he has accepted an invitation to a summit with President Joe Biden on Friday, August 18. At the meeting, the top item on the agenda will be North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

The summit will also involve South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol. It is expected to be held at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, near Washington, according to Japanese government sources.

Japan, the United States, and South Korea hold talks on North Korea on July 20 in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. (Pool photo)

Nagano Gathering 

The Camp David summit was announced as nuclear negotiators from South Korea, the United States and Japan gathered in Nagano prefecture on Thursday, July 20 to discuss North Korea.

Japan's Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Takehiro Funakoshi met with the United States Special Representative for North Korea, Ambassador Sung Kim, and South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, Kim Gunn.

At the start of the meeting, Sung Kim said the US is "working hard" to gather information about a US soldier who fled into North Korea by crossing the border in the demilitarized zone during a civilian tour.

The US State Department said it has attempted to establish contact with the North Korean army. It is trying to ascertain what has happened to the man but outreach calls have not been answered.

Speaking in the resort town of Karuizawa, Director General Funakoshi condemned North Korea's missile launches, saying that they represent a major threat to the peace and stability of the region.


The group further agreed that their countries would continue to work closely together toward a complete denuclearization of North Korea. They said they will expand their deterrent and response capabilities. As well, all three countries will steadily implement sanctions against the North.

Kim Gunn from South Korea said: "We will talk about ways to effectively counter North Korea's continued provocations. We will cut its illicit revenue streams that fund its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs." 

He also added, "Repatriating North Korean overseas workers and clamping down on malicious cyber activities are at the top of our list. We will also look for further actions we can take to close the loopholes in the North Korea sanctions regime."

North Korea's 'Dead End'

The American negotiator, Sung Kim, came to Japan directly from South Korea. He has been involved in the recently launched Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG). He criticized the North Korean regime for pushing for self-reliance and draining its scarce resources through nuclear and missile programs.

"To put it simply, Kim Jong Un has reached a dead end," he declared.

South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol boarded US Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) at a naval base in Busan on July 19. (Office of the President of South Korea via Twitter)

Nuclear-armed Submarine

There was a striking display of the strong links between South Korea and the American military when a US submarine docked at the port of Busan on July 18. The USS Kentucky's armament could include up to twenty Trident ballistic missiles and 80 nuclear warheads. That is according to the Maritime Executive website. However, as a matter of policy, the United States Navy does not confirm whether any specific vessel is carrying nuclear weapons.

A warship, the USS Michigan, arrived in Busan in June, fitted with conventional Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Until the end of the Cold War, the United States maintained a small arsenal of nuclear weapons in South Korea. The reason was to ensure against a North Korean attack. That stockpile was withdrawn in 1991. 

The goal of sending the submarine now is to show that "any nuclear attack by the DPRK against the ROK [South Korea] will be met with a swift, overwhelming, and decisive response" the allies said in a joint statement.

South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol boarded US Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) at a naval base in Busan on July 19 (Photos from the office of the President of South Korea via Twitter.

Nuclear-Based Alliance

South Korea's President Yoon boarded the submarine and gave a speech.

"As President Biden warned in April that North Korea's nuclear attacks will lead to the end of the regime, we must enhance the viability of extended deterrence by leveraging our nuclear-based alliance to ensure that North Korea does not dare to use nuclear weapons," he said.

The deal to send the submarine to South Korea was reached during President Yoon's state visit to America in April.


During that trip, President Yoon explained that there is a growing groundswell of public opinion in South Korea that it should develop its own independent nuclear deterrent.

The Biden administration is firmly against such a plan. And it has therefore negotiated a deal to make the US deterrent in the region more visible. 

In addition, establishing the Nuclear Consultative Group gives South Korea a voice in planning for the use of nuclear arms on the peninsula. That is in the event of a conflict.

Maryland Presidential Lodge at Camp David is scheduled to be the site for an August summit. It is also a famous presidential retreat in the Maryland hills. Here it is shown in the winter. (Ca. 1971). (Public Domain)

A Summit at Camp David

One of the top items on the agenda at the Camp David summit will be whether or not Japan can also play a role in the Nuclear Consultative Group. Tokyo has not yet been invited to do so. And there is likely to be resistance from the political opposition in South Korea. The pacifist lobby in Japan may also regard such a move as being out of step with the Constitution.

However, there has been a remarkable rapprochement between South Korea and Japan over the past year. That has also created optimal conditions for the two countries to collaborate. 

The negotiators who gathered in Nagano said that they will work together to help draw up the agenda for the summit at Camp David in August. 


Author: Duncan Bartlett, Diplomatic Correspondent

Mr Bartlett is the Diplomatic Correspondent for JAPAN Forward and a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute. Read his other articles and essays.

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