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With the White House’s review of its North Korea policy in its “final stages,” U.S. diplomacy has been in overdrive in East Asia to shore up alliances and ensure Japan and South Korea are on “the same page,” reports Jesse Johnson.

First came days of “two-plus-twos” between the U.S. secretaries of state and defense and their equivalents in Tokyo and Seoul. As Kuni Miyake notes, the talks instead showed how the allies are not necessarily reading from the same hymn sheet on not just Pyongyang but Beijing too.

Then on Friday, national security advisers from all three nations ended a day of talks with a statement confirming they would work together to keep up pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, days after Pyongyang test-fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

South Korea, U.S. and Japan agree on need for resumption of denuclearization talks with North Korea: Suh Hoon | ARIRANG NEWS
South Korea, U.S. and Japan agree on need for resumption of denuclearization talks with North Korea: Suh Hoon | ARIRANG NEWS

Next up is the first meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and PM Suga, although the powwow in Washington is being pushed back a week to April 16. Regional security will be on the menu, including yet another confirmation that the Senkaku Islands fall under the scope of the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

The talks come just a little over five years since laws went into force allowing Japan to engage in collective self-defense, since which point the two allies have reinforced their security ties significantly, with Self-Defense Forces guarding U.S. military assets increasingly frequently over the past few years.

But with great power comes great responsibility, and potentially greater costs. Japan recently wrapped up a one-year extension of the status quo in terms of what it spends to host U.S. forces, but the next, longer-term deal is likely to be impacted by a tentative agreement for a “meaningful increase” in Seoul’s cost-sharing burden with the U.S. struck last month, writes Johnson.

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