The United States, Japan, and South Korea's Camp David Summit (8/15-18/2023) can be regarded as a major diplomatic event in today's tense world situation. After following the three-day meeting, it was found that there were more thunders than real raindrops. Reviewing the whole matter, it can be said that it is a big move in the US ‘anti-CRNK strategy’, expecting to create a long-term military alliance like a little NATO in Asia to contain China, Russia, and North Korea (CRNK). However, although both the bilateral military alliances of the U.S. with Japan and South Korea have a ‘master-servant’ relationship, they cannot be arbitrarily expanded to multilateral structures. Therefore, the U.S. cannot easily create a trilateral military alliance. The origin of historical hatred between Japan and South Korea, the different interests of the three countries, and the different definitions of their imaginary enemies are the basic reasons why they could not reach an alliance treaty. Below we will analyze the Trilateral Summit at Camp David from every nation’s perspective and why many people worried and cried out why the U.S. want to pursue such a trilateral summit which essentially petered out in the end.
First, let’s start from the perspective of the U.S. The U.S. is eager to maintain its hegemony position, but its national power is gradually weakening relative to other rising powers, facing the economic recession, debt and currency crisis, and military spending burden. Take the recent fire in Hawaii as an example, the death toll has exceeded 100 and is still increasing. Public opinion voices that the President of the U.S. is indifferent and shows no sympathy. There are 80,000 U.S. troops in Hawaii (air forces, navy, and marines all have their own fire departments), but all sitting idly by, letting the Maui fire burn like hell. President Biden did nothing (his vacation was the most important thing), not only no action but also no words. In the end, the federal government allotted $700 for each fire victim which caused the Americans to sigh and cry. Biden was at Camp David's trilateral summit from August 15th to 18th, having no time for Hawaii to inspect the fire disaster or to comfort the victims. He was not planning any world peace plan at Camp David but planning to set up a small NATO military organization in Asia, premeditating a proxy war with Japan and South Korea as the pawns fighting far away from North America. The wishful thinking is that Japan and South Korea would cooperate and fight for the interests of the U.S. against its imaginary enemies. No wonder many Americans are worrying and crying, especially the Hawaiians, who are in the third island chain. If a war was provoked in Asia, the military bases in Hawaii would inevitably be attacked and destroyed. Americans who remember the Pearl Harbor incident would shed tears of sadness. Why doesn't the American government system put the well-being of the people first? Why did the Biden administration engage in a trilateral military alliance agreement at Camp David, which has a history of making peace not war? Don’t they know that preparations for war will eventually lead to war? Are the lives of the Hawaiians, Japanese, and Koreans not lives?
From South Korea’s point of view, its new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, was elected with a pro-American position but low support. After taking office, he countered the peace-seeking policy of the previous president, Moon Jae-in, and almost fully cooperated with Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy. Although he was invited to visit the U.S. with high-level courtesy, his approval rating in domestic polls was less than 30%. The president of South Korea cannot be re-elected, he must worry about public opinion forcing him to step down or go to jail after he leaves office. He is now facing three major problems. The first is to support the US sanctions against China's semiconductor supply chain, products, and manufacturing technology. South Korea has exported a large number of semiconductor products to China and has invested in and set up factories in China. Therefore, responding to US sanctions against China will inevitably damage South Korea's trade and domestic economy. The second is to support the U.S. military confrontation with North Korea, which tends to increase the crisis on the Korean peninsula and anger China, Russia, and North Korea. It does not reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, at most, it helps the U.S. buy a little time to react to a missile attack. Yoon had the stupid idea of inviting the U.S. to station nuclear weapons in South Korea, but neither the U.S. nor Japan would agree. Korean citizens will be even more unwilling to pay the price of having any nuclear weapon installation. The third is to support the U.S.-Japan-South Korea trilateral security alliance mechanism (The little NATO) that the U.S. wants. Fortunately, the trilateral summit meeting only produced an empty principle and spirit - the three parties agreed that if there was a crisis, the three parties should negotiate and deal with it. The outcome at Camp David not only disappointed the U.S. but also made the people of South Korea and Japan realize that the defense alliance with the U.S. is an unequal treaty. Everything is based on the interests of the U.S. The U.S. holds all the cards. Japan and South Korea are just pawns. The reason why the three nations cannot sign a meaningful Trilateral Alliance Treaty is that the U.S. cannot make the two pawns completely give up their respective ideas and interests. Yoon Suk Yoel’s 92 years old father passed away on August 15th, and Yoon still had to go to Camp David. He had to show his pro-American policy but he also was worried about Korean people’s crying and scolding. The Korean citizens would not consider his Camp David trip as an act of sacrificing filial piety for patriotism.
Finally, looking at Japan, Fumio Kishida is also a pawn of the U.S. The Liberal Democratic Party is a pro-American political party cultivated by the U.S. after World War II. Although Japanese politicians hope to turn Japan from a defeated country into a normal state, Japan has never been able to get rid of the control of the U.S. after the post-war governance and infiltration of the U.S. in Japan. Especially in defense, Japan relies heavily on the US-Japan security treaty. Japan's constitution stipulates that it cannot build an army or start a war, and the US-Japan security treaty provides Japan with a national defense under U.S. command. The Japanese people don't want a war and don’t mind that the U.S. can offer protection. But if Japan is asked to fight for the Americans, or for Koreans, that is definitely not in line with the Japanese public opinion. Kishida also faces several problems. Participating in the U.S. sanctions against the Chinese semiconductor industry will hurt the Japanese economy. Unless the U.S. provides economic subsidies and guaranteed market shares, it will inevitably force Japan to compete with South Korea. Japan’s release of nuclear polluted water into the Pacific Ocean is another problem that tests Japan’s moral values. Japan's neighbors, including China and South Korea, are against it. Japan will have to consider its own interests above that of South Korea and the United States in a trilateral alliance treaty. Therefore, the biggest substantive achievement of the Camp David Summit, from the standpoint of the United States, is the establishment of a telephone hotline among the three countries and the agreement to hold annual summit meeting and joint military exercises. This is an acceptable agreement for all since it gives them a window to continue to hype the military alliance issue with no specific binding commitments. However, the trilateral agreement also has a military expenditure that all three must pay for. From the military point of view, the effect of this agreement is minimum, but the waste of resources will make the clear minded citizens cry and ask why we have to do this?!