November 9, 2023
SEOUL – South Korea, the United States and Japan have agreed to hold a meeting of defense chiefs to discuss coordinating responses in the face of escalating missile and nuclear threats posed by North Korea, officials at South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said Wednesday.
The defense ministerial meeting has been planned to coincide with the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Seoul for the Security Consultative Meeting, an annual bilateral defense discussion with South Korea, scheduled for Monday.
The upcoming trilateral meeting, the first since South Korea’s new Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Japan’s Defense Minister Minoru Kihara assumed office in October and September, respectively, may take place before the SCM, according to military officials.
The last time the defense chiefs from these three countries gathered was in June on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, the multilateral defense and security forum, in Singapore.
One of the primary agenda items for discussion would focus on establishing and operating a real-time system for sharing missile warning data on North Korean missile launches. The aim is to enhance the ability to deter and respond to North Korea’s threats in a more effective and coordinated manner.
The term “missile warning data” encompasses information related to the projected launch location, trajectory and anticipated landing zone of North Korean missiles. The real-time sharing system has undergone testing, and officials aim to have the system fully operational by the end of this month.
In June, the defense chiefs of South Korea, the United States and Japan reached an agreement to have the system operational by the end of this year. The decision came around seven months after the leaders of the three countries first concurred on the information-sharing initiative at a November 2022 summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have intensified their military and security cooperation in response to mounting threats from North Korea. As part of this effort, the leaders of the three countries reached an agreement at a Camp David summit in August to conduct annual, named, multidomain trilateral exercises regularly to bolster their coordinated capabilities and cooperation.