Published: 12:27, August 16, 2023 | Updated: 12:27, August 16, 2023
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Camp David meeting attempt to weave Seoul closely into Washington's designs
By China Daily

The virtual meeting of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts of Japan and the Republic of Korea on Tuesday was undoubtedly a preparation for the meeting of the leaders of the three countries that the United States is scheduled to host at Camp David, Maryland, on Friday.

The wide scope of topics covered by the discussions of the three countries' top diplomats, ranging from the Korean Peninsula situation to China, the South China Sea, weapons and technology, as well as the extent to which the discussions were steered by Blinken is an indication of how the David Camp meeting will unfold. Rumors have it that the meeting will produce a strong joint communique on security issues.

ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol took the lead to secure a reconciliation with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida over the historical issues that have strained the relations between the two countries by choosing to let the past be past in March. That it took only five months for US President Joe Biden to host them after that suggests it was the prompter behind the curtains.

Although the three leaders have met with each other on multilateral and bilateral occasions frequently in recent months, including the G7 Hiroshima summit in May and NATO Vilnius summit in July, this will be the first time for the three to sit alone together.

While Japan has actively participated in almost all the anti-China clubs and designs of the US, the ROK's involvement in the meeting would have seemed unlikely even only half a year ago. It is the ROK leader's participation that makes the gathering noteworthy. It can be taken as an indication that Seoul is discarding the long-term strategic autonomy it has carefully maintained to embrace a one-sided pro-US diplomacy. That's something both Tokyo and Washington have anticipated, even long before the latter brokered the reconciliation between Seoul and Tokyo.

However, by peering itself with Japan in the US' geopolitical game, the ROK has downgraded itself from a party all sides in the Asia-Pacific had to take account of into just another US pawn.

By jumping onto the US bandwagon, the Yoon government has not only blocked finding a peaceful solution to the Peninsula issue, but also sabotaged any possibility for the reunification of the two Koreas, something neither Japan nor the US thinks serves its interest. The ROK's presence will make Japan feel less lonely in challenging Beijing over issues related to the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as the Taiwan question, which Yoon recklessly said should be regarded "an international issue".

Yoon has made no bones about his longing to enhance the ROK's profile on the world stage by trying to elbow into the various Western clubs. Yoon, who had tried to impress the US with his Congress speech in English and solo rendition of American Pie the last time he visited the country, should have felt honored by being ushered into the presidential retreat the second time he set foot on US soil.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch. It will only be a matter of time before the ROK leader realizes that it is his country that is footing the bill. If there is anything to be inked at the end of the meeting at Camp David, it will largely be the newcomer who pays for it.