U.S., Japan, and South Korea Enhance Trilateral Security Cooperation

June 3, 2024: On June 2, 2024, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Japan’s Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, and South Korea’s Minister of National Defense Shin Won-sik convened in Singapore for a Trilateral Ministerial Meeting. Their discussions centered on regional security issues, the implementation of trilateral security initiatives outlined at the historic Camp David Summit on August 18, 2023, and new measures to fortify and institutionalize trilateral security cooperation, aiming to bolster peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and across the Indo-Pacific region. The leaders agreed to rotate hosting the Trilateral Ministerial Meeting (TMM), the Trilateral Chiefs of Defense (Tri-CHOD) meeting, and the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) beginning this year to maintain momentum.

The meeting underscored the commitment of the three nations to enhancing their security cooperation to deter nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and to achieve its complete denuclearization in line with United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs). They condemned the DPRK’s recent advancements in nuclear delivery systems, ballistic missile tests, and the launch of a purported military reconnaissance satellite using ballistic missile technology. These actions, along with illicit ship-to-ship transfers and arms shipments to Russia, were denounced as violations of multiple UNSCRs. The United States reiterated its unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea, supported by the full spectrum of U.S. capabilities, both conventional and nuclear.

The leaders called upon the international community to ensure DPRK compliance with its UNSCR obligations and committed to redoubling efforts following Russia’s veto of the UN Panel of Experts’ mandate renewal for monitoring sanctions on the DPRK. They expressed concern over the DPRK’s recent attempt to launch a military satellite and demanded an immediate halt to further destabilizing activities. A potential DPRK nuclear test would elicit a strong international response. The leaders reaffirmed their openness to peaceful and diplomatic resolutions with the DPRK.

Emphasizing the importance of the rules-based international order, the leaders reaffirmed their support for Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked aggression, recognizing that Russia’s actions violate fundamental principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The discussions also included the implementation of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” plan, and South Korea’s strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region. They strongly opposed unilateral actions altering the status quo in Indo-Pacific waters and condemned China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. The leaders stressed the necessity of adhering to international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Reaffirming their unchanged positions on Taiwan, the leaders emphasized the significance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for global security and prosperity, advocating for the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.

Since the August 2023 Camp David Summit, the leaders noted significant progress, such as the activation of a real-time missile warning data-sharing mechanism to detect and assess DPRK ballistic missile launches. They committed to optimizing this mechanism by year-end to enhance deterrence and response capabilities.

The leaders announced the execution of the first multi-domain trilateral exercise, FREEDOM EDGE, this summer, and the conduct of a trilateral tabletop exercise (TTX) to address threats in the Korean Peninsula and Indo-Pacific region. They pledged to develop a trilateral security cooperation framework within the year to institutionalize senior-level policy consultations, information sharing, trilateral exercises, and defense exchange cooperation.

Recognizing the importance of bilateral ties and trilateral cooperation, Japan and South Korea emphasized their shared security objectives. The Secretary and Ministers vowed to continue strengthening trilateral cooperation to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, throughout the Indo-Pacific, and beyond.–By David Vergun