US ‘concerned’ Over Reports of Russia-north Korea Nuclear Cooperation

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The United States is “concerned” about the national security implications of North Korea and Russia reportedly cooperating on nuclear missile technology, the Biden administration said, as the US welcomed the leaders of Japan and South Korea to Camp David on Friday for an unprecedented trilateral summit.

The US, Japan and South Korea agreed to a new security pledge committing the three countries to consult with each other in the event of a security crisis or threat in the Pacific, according to the Biden administration.

Details about the new “duty to consult” commitment emerged as Joe Biden welcomed South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, for the summit at the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Upon greeting the foreign leaders, Biden said the US, Japan and South Korea were “stronger and the world is safer … as we stand together”.

At a press conference earlier, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was asked about a report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that the latest inter-continental ballistic missiles that North Korea, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been showing off may rely on Russian nuclear technology.

Sullivan said: “We are concerned about the relationship, including the technology and security relationship, between Russia and the DPRK.”

He added that “in terms of that specific report” about Russian missile technology and North Koran missiles, the Biden administration was relying on the US intelligence community, which was “taking a look at it”, Sullivan said.

But he warned that Russia “has been seeking to get material for its war effort in Ukraine from Pyongyang, and as they have done with other countries, like Iran, when they ask, they usually also offer some type of security cooperation in return. So that’s something we are taking a hard look at.”

The new US-Japan-South Korea security agreement was one of several joint efforts the leaders were expected to announce at the day-long summit, as the three countries look to tighten security and economic ties amid increasing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s provocations in the Pacific.

“Suffice it to say, this is a big deal,” Sullivan told reporters on Friday shortly before the formal start of the summit. “It is a historic event, and it sets the conditions for a more peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and a stronger and more secure United States of America.”

Before it even began, the summit drew public censure from the Chinese government.

“The international community has its own judgment as to who is creating contradictions and increasing tensions,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told reporters on Friday.

“Attempts to form various exclusive groups and cliques and to bring bloc confrontation into the Asia-Pacific region are unpopular and will definitely spark vigilance and opposition in the countries of the region,” Wang said.

Sullivan pushed back.

“It’s explicitly not a Nato for the Pacific,” Sullivan said. “This partnership is not against anyone, it is for something. It is for a vision of the Indo-Pacific that is free, open, secure and prosperous.”

The “duty to consult” pledge is intended to acknowledge that the three countries share “fundamentally interlinked security environments” and that a threat to one of the nations is “a threat to all”, according to a senior Biden administration official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the coming announcement.

Under the pledge, the three countries agree to consult, share information and align their messaging with each other in the face of a threat or crisis, the official said. The commitment does not infringe on each country’s right to defend itself under international law, nor does it alter existing bilateral treaty commitments between the US and Japan and the US and South Korea, the official added. The United States has more than 80,000 troops based in the two countries.

The summit is the first Biden has held during his presidency at the storied Camp David. Yoon arrived first. The three leaders will hold formal talks and a press conference. But Biden is hoping to use much of the day with the two leaders as a more informal opportunity to tighten their bond.

Biden’s focus for the gathering is to nudge the United States’ closest Asian allies to further tighten security and economic cooperation with each other. The historic rivals have been divided by differing views of second world war history and Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

But under Kishida and Yoon, the two countries have begun a rapprochement as the two conservative leaders grapple with shared security challenges posed by North Korea and China.

Both leaders have been upset by the stepped-up cadence of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and Chinese military exercises near Taiwan, the self-ruled island that is claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, and other aggressive action.

The three leaders are also expected to detail in their summit communique plans to invest in technology for a three-way crisis hotline and offer an update on progress the countries have made on sharing early-warning data on missile launches by North Korea.

Other announcements expected to come out of the summit include plans to expand military cooperation on ballistic defenses and to make the summit an annual event. Sullivan said the leaders would also commit on Friday to a multiyear planning process for joint military exercises.

The leaders are also likely to discuss the long-running territorial conflicts in the disputed South China Sea involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Source: The Guardian