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  • Writer's pictureIan Murphy

Facing Common Threats: The Camp David Principles and the Path to Peace in the Indo-Pacific

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

The recent Camp David summit is a significant step in the trilateral US-Japan-South Korea relationship and is a strong reminder of the positive benefits of US-led diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific. The Biden administration has taken a distinct position on alliances compared to previous presidential administrations. President Biden not only seeks to repair relationships, but build relationships among US allies to better tackle transnational issues.

Transnational issues are problems that cross national borders and require international cooperation to solve. For countries, these include social, economic, political, criminal, and environmental issues. One prominent example is the South China Sea dispute, where many countries have overlapping territorial claims, but face the common threat of Chinese PLA aggression. The problem is that no single country can solve the issue of PLA aggression individually or solve their own security challenges alone.

Both China and Russia have sought to achieve a “divide and conquer” strategy, where other countries are too busy in fighting among each other instead of a common threat. Russian disinformation campaigns have targeted NATO members to convince the public and politicians that aiding Ukraine is against the target country’s interests. China has ongoing disinformation campaigns in the Indo-Pacific but also benefits from an already tense Japan-South Korea relationship, which has prevented them from working together on resolving the North Korean nuclear threat and PLA aggression. Biden’s strategy aims to relieve the deadlock and create long-term solutions to these transnational security threats.

The Camp David Principles

Japan and South Korea have been working closely together over the past two months to improve their overall relationship. They have held a number of summits and meetings to make efforts to address historical and territorial disputes that have been straining their relationship. Although Japan and South Korea individually have strong relationships with the United States, these tensions have prevented the two from agreeing on how to respond to North Korean nuclear threats, prevented action on growing Chinese military power, and reduced intelligence sharing with each other. This lack of cooperation has made it easier for China to assert itself in the region and gives North Korea an advantage in a conflict scenario.

As a common security and economic partner between the two countries, the United States was able to take the lead at Camp David to bring the two countries together. Collectively, they issued the Camp David Principles on August 18, 2023, which are a set of mutually agreed upon principles that will guide their security cooperation. These principles are:

  1. Commit to a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international law, while reaffirming the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

  2. Support a strong ASEAN and partner closely with ASEAN to advance peace in the Indo-Pacific.

  3. Support dialogue with North Korea and aim for denuclearization in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.

  4. Promote financial stability and seek continued economic cooperation.

  5. Develop standard practices to guide the development, use, and transfer of critical technologies.

  6. Advance the protection of human rights in the region, including the full and meaningful participation of women in their societies.

The Camp David Principles represent the first step in long-term cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. What these principles do is give the alliance a set of guiding principles to follow, a set of common goals, and predictable engagement. While far from the beginning of an “Asian NATO” that Chinese media often claims, the trilateral allows South Korea and Japan to overcome historical barriers and focus instead on transnational issues to create a more secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

This article was previously published on The News Lens International on August 22, 2023.


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