Biden hoping to warm Japan-South Korea relations at Camp David

August 17, 2023

President Biden on Friday plans to use the site of Presidential retreat Camp David to entice more cooperation between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Relations between the two Asia-Pacific leaders have been cool despite their nations’ common adversaries in the region: China and North Korea.

Both nations have in recent months strengthened their military postures against regional threats, and both leaders have visited Biden at the White House this year, Kishida on January 13 and Yoon on April 26.

However, Biden is hoping that Camp David, where President Carter famously brokered a peace agreement between the leaders of Egypt and Israel in 1978, has the same luck in using the rustic, isolated setting to smooth over relations between the Japanese and South Korean leaders, whose countries have been historically strained, overshadowed by Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

“When you have two allies who are fighting with one another, it obviously weakens the overall alliance,” noted Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy Subcommittee.

Camp David isn’t a guarantee for success in international negotiations. In 2000, President Clinton had hoped to repeat Carter’s triumph by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to the Presidential retreat. After two weeks of talks, that summit ended without an agreement.  

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has visited Camp David more than two dozen times, often to spend time with his family.

Friday, though, will mark Biden’s first ever use of Camp David for a summit, and it will be the first meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Japan and South Korea that hasn’t been held on the sidelines of an International gathering. 

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