Japan-South Korea-US is Not the Alliance You Think
I’ll give the Biden administration credit: It’s great at making big foreign policy announcements with widespread media coverage while very little materially changes. Trump would be impressed.
The latest celebration is the supposedly trilateral “alliance” between the US, Japan, and South Korea.
This is not what it sounds like.
It’s not a mutual defense treaty, and there’s no obligation for either Japan or South Korea to fight on behalf of the other. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s rejection of the idea that this is a “mini-NATO in Asia” is actually correct—it’s not that.
At the same time, the symbolic bonhomie will usher in an uptick of trilateral military cooperation, an increase in combined military exercises, and a jumpstarting of joint projects in areas that were previously taboo—trilateral ballistic missile defense, for example, and probably hypersonic missile development before long.
But this is a fragile trilateralism that’s coming together now not because of “rising threats,” as some pundits have tried to spin it.
Rather, this is the result of a long-held ideological project among US foreign policy practitioners, which has finally converged with two right-wing governments in Seoul and Tokyo that are sliding further in a reactionary direction themselves. That gives them common cause.
Let me explain.