The defense chiefs of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, and other regional and global security challenges during their trilateral meeting on the sidelines of an annual defense forum in Singapore later this week, Seoul officials said Wednesday.
At the Asia Security Summit, better known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera are also expected to discuss the trilateral sharing of military intelligence ― a sensitive issue that could unnerve Beijing and Pyongyang.
“With an aim to better respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, there will be comprehensive discussions about the three-way sharing of military intelligence,” a Seoul official told media, declining to be named.
The ASS, a three-day forum of defense ministers, top military officers and security experts from 27 countries, is to begin Friday.
The first trilateral defense meeting since 2009 will come after the U.S. House of Representatives passed an act last Thursday that called on the Washington government to explore ways to strengthen ballistic missile defense cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo.
The U.S. has apparently pushed for the enhanced intelligence cooperation to strengthen the triangular security collaboration with its core Asian allies, which has been hampered due to historical and territorial feuds between Seoul and Tokyo. South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed last month to foster the intelligence cooperation.
During the meeting, Kim is also expected to express Seoul’s concerns over Japan’s push for collective self-defense. Seoul has maintained that Tokyo should exercise the right to collective self-defense in a peninsular contingency only when there is a request from Seoul.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently made it public that Tokyo would push to alter the interpretation of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution to allow for collective self-defense, the use of force to aid allies if they are attacked.
Apart from the trilateral meeting, Kim will meet Hagel for bilateral talks. They plan to discuss ways to strengthen the joint defense posture to deter North Korea, which has recently threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test.
The two ministers will also discuss the transfer of wartime operational control. They have agreed to determine the timing of the transfer based on “conditions” as Seoul has called for a delay in the transfer scheduled for December 2015 due to the increasing nuclear threats from Pyongyang.
Also at the ASS, Kim plans to hold a bilateral meeting with New Zealand’s Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman. The two are to sign an agreement to boost bilateral defense exchanges and cooperation, Seoul officials said.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)