By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) — South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed Sunday to launch a real-time missile warning data sharing system next month to better detect and assess North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, Seoul’s defense ministry said.
The defense chiefs of the three nations reached the agreement during their meeting on the occasion of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Seoul for annual bilateral security talks with his South Korean counterpart, Shin Won-sik, slated for Monday. Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara joined the trilateral session via a video link.
“The ministers of the three countries evaluated that preparations for the real-time sharing mechanism, which is aimed at enhancing each country’s capabilities of detecting and assessing North Korea’s missiles, are currently in the final stage. They have agreed to officially activate the mechanism in December,” the ministry said in a release.
The three officials also agreed to outline plans for trilateral military drills by the end of this year to conduct joint training “more systematically and efficiently” beginning in January.
“They also agreed to continuously expand trilateral training into various areas in the future,” it said.
The latest agreement comes as the U.S. and its two Asian allies have been striving to strengthen trilateral security cooperation as long-frayed relations between Seoul and Tokyo have significantly warmed up.
Last month, the three nations jointly conducted their first aerial drills and a maritime interdiction exercise near the Korean Peninsula, the first of such in seven years.
During the meeting, the ministers condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile and nuclear activities, and pledged to closely cooperate for their shared goal of North Korea’s “complete denuclearization” in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions, it said.
North Korea conducted two test-firings of Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles earlier this year and is believed to be preparing to launch its first military spy satellite following failed attempts in May and August.