At Camp David, Leaders Criticize Beijing’s Moves in South China Sea

Hyeongjoo Park

CAMP DAVID, MARYLAND — Leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea wrapped their Friday summit at the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David, cementing a newly established trilateral partnership with a pledge for a unified trilateral response during a regional crisis, focusing on threats from China and North Korea.

“We’ve all committed to swiftly consult with each other in response to threats to any one of our countries from whatever source it occurs,” President Joe Biden said alongside South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a joint news conference at the summit’s conclusion.

“That means we’ll have a hotline to share information and coordinate our responses whenever there’s a crisis in the region, or affecting any one of our countries,” he added.

Without mentioning China, Biden said the leaders reaffirmed a commitment to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and address economic coercion — a practice Washington accuses Beijing of employing for its political goals.

“The free and open international order based on the rule of law is in crisis,” Kishida said, pointing the blame at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, continuing North Korean nuclear and missile threats and a “unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas.”

In a break from past summit language that normally avoids directly naming China, the leaders’ joint statement explicitly highlighted Beijing’s “dangerous and aggressive behavior supporting unlawful maritime claims” in the South China Sea.

China has claimed sovereignty over almost the entire sea, antagonizing competing claimants Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. An international tribunal ruled in 2016 that China’s claim was without legal foundation.

Just this week, news surfaced that Beijing appears to be constructing an airstrip on a disputed island in waters also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

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