South Korea is trying to benefit from the tripartite coordination mechanism with Washington and Tokyo to confront the dangers of its northern neighbor in light of Pyongyang’s continued military escalation.
However, Washington’s goal of forming an alliance between the three countries to confront Beijing faces some doubts, given that Seoul does not see Beijing as an enemy like Tokyo. As for Japan, it is clear that it will continue to coordinate with Washington to support its efforts to curb Chinese military expansion in the East Asia and South Pacific region.
The North Korean-Chinese consensus represents a major threat to the security of South Korea and Japan, given the refusal of both China and North Korea to establish an “Asian NATO”, and Pyongyang’s consideration that these American-South Korean maneuvers are a “rehearsal” for its invasion, which prompted it to respond by launching missiles.
Cruise” several off its eastern coast, on March 22, 2023, and it was preceded by the launch of a short-range ballistic missile, on March 19, 2023.
One of those missiles landed between the Korean peninsula and Japan, in an indication of North Korea’s refusal to cooperate with the two countries in confronting it. Pyongyang also rejects Washington’s attempts to reproduce an “Asian NATO” similar to the “NATO” alliance that includes Atlantic countries.
Despite South Korea’s denial that its cooperation with Japan is within the framework of a military alliance, there are indications of increased levels of coordination between the two countries, on top of which is the signing of an agreement, in November 2022, to activate a previous agreement to exchange intelligence information about North Korean launches.
For missiles, in order to enhance the ability of the two countries to better confront potential threats, so that South Korean sensors follow the places where those missiles were launched, while Japan can often better track their landing place.
Also, those Japanese-South Korean moves with Washington anger Beijing, especially with their tendency to coordinate with Taiwan, which China considers an integral part of its territory.
On December 24, 2021, Japan raised the issue of Taiwan and demanded a contingency plan to be ready, and Tokyo put forward a Japanese initiative to include Taiwan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership group, with the Liberal Democratic Party and the Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party conducting several online conversations in which they discussed lifting the ban on Taiwan’s food imports from five countries. Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima.
During the election campaign on October 17, 2021, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan led by Kishida pledged in its manifesto to double the country’s defense spending from 1% to 2% of GDP, twice the current level of $50 billion.
This indicates the commitment of the new Prime Minister Kishida to continue the policies of his predecessors, Abe Shinzo and Suga, to play a greater role in the Indo-Pacific region, to strengthen its missile defense capabilities and to consolidate superiority in the new areas of outer space, electronic warfare and cyberspace in response to the military modernization in North Korea and China. This is what the Beijing government and the leaders of the Communist Party of China are staunchly confronting.
The Chinese rejection of the statements of Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party in South Korea, during the propaganda for the South Korean presidential elections in March 2022, came about the rapid transition to what is known as operational control, which known as the (OPCON).
This is the plan approved by South Korea and the United States, and that meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kreitenbrink, on November 11, 2021, emphasized the South Korean presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung at the time on developing the alliance between South Korea, Japan and Washington into a global partnership, to which China responded strictly at the time.
As for the Chinese response to those American alliances and moves with Seoul and Tokyo, it is expected that China will stand in the face of any joint Japanese, South Korean, and American moves in confronting them, with assurances that China will carry out a broad and continuous process of modernizing its military forces without submitting to any restrictions imposed by the disarmament agreements and the reduction of arsenals.
Nuclear, missile and others. For example, we find that in July 2021, US satellite images revealed China’s construction of new advanced military equipment and arsenals in western China, through which intercontinental nuclear missiles can be launched, with the US confirmation that China built them in complete secrecy and away from any international oversight or transparency.
The US Naval Intelligence Office monitored China’s possession of advanced nuclear submarines, as well as the modernization of several Chinese naval fleets, represented by warships. A high rate that reveals China’s rush to support its war fleets in the face of any US alliances in the region.
Also, from October 14 to 18, 2021, Russia and China conducted joint naval maneuvers in the Sea of Japan, through the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido, south of the Japanese coast on the Pacific Ocean and through the Osumi Strait between the southern tip of Kyushu and the disputed island of Tanegashima in the South China Sea, where the Japanese space launch facilities are located. This definitely affects the national security of both South Korea and Japan in the face of China
Here, it is expected that any US alliances with Seoul and Tokyo in the face of China will affect the increase and strengthening of the strategic partnership between China and Russia and the intensification of their joint military exercises in the East Asian region, and the first such case was in June 2016, following the entry of several ships belonging to the Russian and Chinese navies.
At one time the areas bordering the Senkaku Islands. And in July 2019 and December 2020, China and Russia officially announced that their strategic bombers had conducted joint flights from the Sea of Japan to the East China Sea.
Dr Nadia Helmy is Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit