Defense chiefs from the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed Thursday to “accelerate” the sharing of real-time, missile-warning data and to plan additional joint military drills.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada called Thursday for increased military cooperation amid ongoing threats from North Korea, which “is highly likely to continue provoking in the future,” according to a summary of their talks from Seoul’s military.
North Korea has fired 19 ballistic missiles so far this year in 13 separate days of testing. The communist regime last fired two short-range ballistic missiles that flew roughly 220 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, on Aug. 30.
The defense chiefs agreed that North Korea’s failed Aug. 24 launch of a military reconnaissance satellite, which fell into the Yellow Sea, was "an illicit act to flagrantly breach” U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the country from testing rockets using ballistic missile technology, the readout said.
The chiefs planned to address the regime's actions by “further strengthening the three countries’ reaction capabilities and posture against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats” and to conduct trilateral military drills “as soon as possible,” the readout added.
The three nations’ armed forces trained together Aug. 29, five days after North Korea’s failed satellite launch.
Three warships equipped with the Aegis Combat System — the USS Benfold, South Korea’s Yulgok Yi I and Japan’s JS Haguro — tracked a simulated North Korean ballistic missile in international waters south of Jeju Island, a South Korean territory, to improve the navies’ ability to react, Seoul’s National Defense Ministry said at the time.
Austin, Lee and Hamada agreed to accelerate a process for sharing information about North Korean missile launches as they happen.
During their first summit at the Camp David presidential retreat last month, President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to “operationalize our sharing of missile warning data on [North Korea] in real-time” by the end of 2023, according to a joint statement on Aug. 18.
The allies’ plan for more trilateral drills follows reports that North Korea, Russia and China may carry out similar exercises.
South Korean National Intelligence Service director Kim Kyou-hyun told lawmakers at a closed-door briefing that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu floated the idea to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in July, a Seoul lawmaker who attended the meeting told reporters Monday.
Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.