US, allies to stand up for stability in Taiwan Strait

December 10, 2023

SEOUL: US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Saturday Washington and its Asia allies would “stand up” for stability across the Taiwan Strait, and reiterated their commitment to freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea.

His comments came during a joint briefing with his Tokyo and Seoul counterparts, after a trilateral meeting in South Korea.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan attends a joint press conference with South Korea's National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong and Japan's National Security Secretariat Secretary-General Takeo Akiba at the presidential office in Seoul on December 9, 2023. — AFP

Late last month the top diplomats of South Korea, Japan and China -- North Korea’s key ally and Washington’s rival -- reaffirmed the need to hold a trilateral summit at the “earliest” possible time.

The United States and its Western allies have increased “freedom of navigation” crossings by naval vessels in both the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, to reinforce that both are international waterways, angering Beijing.

“We will continue to stand up for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and freedom of navigation in the east and South China Seas,” Sullivan told reporters in Seoul, alongside South Korea’s Cho Tae-yong and Japan’s Takeo Akiba.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has moved to strengthen ties between Seoul and long-standing ally Washington to counter rising threats from nuclear-armed North Korea. He has also sought to resolve differences with Japan, another close US ally and Seoul’s former colonial ruler.

In August, the three allies said a “new chapter” of close three-way security cooperation was beginning after a historic summit at Camp David in the United States.

Beijing had lodged complaints over a statement released at the summit at the time, in which the three nations criticised China’s “aggressive behaviour” in the South China Sea, which it claims most of.

China also claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, vowing to seize it one day, and officials in Washington -- Taipei’s most important ally -- have cited 2027 as a possible timeline for an invasion. In April, South Korea’s Yoon said tensions over Taiwan were due to “attempts to change the status quo by force”. The comment resulted in a diplomatic tit-for-tat with China, which is South Korea’s biggest trading partner.

Last month, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing made efforts to organise a trilateral leaders’ summit. The last such meeting was in 2019.