|South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, left, hold bilateral talks with Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Sunday. Yonhap|
Seoul, Tokyo, Washington to share NK missile warning data in real time
By Lee Hyo-jin
The defense chiefs of South Korea and Japan agreed to find ways to prevent a recurrence of a maritime dispute, signaling a major step in mending frayed military ties as the two countries team up against North Korea and its evolving nuclear threats.
South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup held bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart Yasukazu Hamada, Sunday, on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. It was the first two-way defense ministerial talks between the neighboring countries in three and a half years.
"We have agreed to focus on preventing a recurrence," Lee told reporters shortly after the meeting, referring to the 2018 maritime incident. He added that the two nations will resolve the matter beginning with working-level discussions.
The rare one-on-one talks between the defense ministers drew keen attention as to whether the two sides will agree to resolve a years-long military dispute that led to the suspension of bilateral security cooperation.
The incident arose in December 2018, when Japan alleged that South Korea's Gwanggaeto the Great destroyer had used its fire control radar system on a P-1 aircraft operated by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.
Seoul rejected the claim, stating that the warship was conducting a humanitarian rescue operation involving a North Korean ship. It also demanded an apology for the Japanese warplane's provocative low-altitude flight over South Korean destroyers.
Amid the controversy, the South Korean government issued guidelines to its Navy in January 2019, instructing them to use their direct fire control radar on Japanese aircraft flying nearby only if the plane does not respond to two radio warnings.
|South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup, left, shakes hands with Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada during a bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Sunday. Yonhap|
Although Seoul and Tokyo did not come up with a concrete resolution plan about the dispute during Sunday's talks, the two sides vowed to forge closer security ties against North Korea's growing nuclear threats.
According to South Korea's defense ministry, Lee and Hamada strongly condemned Pyongyang's failed attempt to launch its first military spy satellite on Wednesday, calling it "a grave violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions."
"In order to deter and respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, the two ministers agreed that it is important to further advance security cooperation between South Korea and Japan, as well as among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, while building trust between South Korea and Japan's respective militaries," the ministry said in a statement.
During a three-way meeting held in Singapore on the previous day, Lee, Hamada and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed to establish a real-time sharing system for North Korean missile warning data this year.
The arrangement, which first came up during a trilateral summit in Cambodia in November 2022, has been gaining momentum as bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo have continued to improve in recent months.
Currently, South Korea and Japan are separately linked to data from U.S. radar systems to detect North Korean missiles, but there is no system linking the Asian nations directly. Due to North Korea's growing nuclear provocations, the need for three-way intelligence-sharing capabilities has increased.