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S. Korea, Japan hold senior-level security talks after 5-year hiatus
S. Korea, US, Japan conduct ballistic missile defense exercise against NK threatsBy Ji Da-gyum
Published : April 17, 2023 - 15:44
South Korea and Japan on Monday agreed to develop “future-oriented security cooperation” in the face of escalating North Korean threats and a changing security environment in Northeast Asia at the first senior-level security talks in five years.
The 12th Security Policy Consultation, held in Seoul, was attended by Director General for Asian and Pacific Affairs Seo Min-jeong and Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Takehiro Funakoshi of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, alongside their respective delegations.
“Both sides exchanged broad and in-depth opinions on the security environment in Northeast Asia, including the North Korean nuclear issue and the status of mutual defense and security policy cooperation and coordination between South Korea and Japan as well as among South Korea, the United States and Japan,” South Korea’s Defense and Foreign ministries said in a statement.
The security talks served as an opportunity for both sides to “share their perceptions on the security environment in Northeast Asia and enhance mutual understanding of each other’s defense and security policies.”
As a result, both sides agreed to “develop future-oriented security cooperation between South Korea and Japan,” the statement said, without further details.
The resumption of security dialogue marked the latest sign of a thaw in bilateral relations.
Since the first meeting was held in Seoul in 1998, South Korea and Japan held a total of 11 security talks over the next two decades that were punctuated with interruptions due to their complex bilateral relationship. The bilateral security cooperation was suspended in 2018 in the aftermath of a radar lock-on dispute between South Korea and Japan.
Monday’s director-general-level, two-plus-two security dialogue came after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in March agreed to mend ties.
The two leaders agreed to quickly restore various channels of communication designed to discuss issues of mutual interest. The bilateral channels had been suspended amid long-strained bilateral ties rooted in historic disputes over Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45.
Seoul and Japan also announced the “normalization” of a military intelligence-sharing pact during the summit.
On the same day, South Korea and Japan also stepped up their security cooperation with the US.
The South Korean and US navies and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force staged a ballistic missile defense exercise in international waters off of the East Sea to enhance interoperability and readiness posture against escalating missile and nuclear threats from North Korea, South Korea’s Navy said.
The trilateral naval drill came days after North Korea conducted its first test launch of the solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-18 on Thursday.
“The exercise was designed to enhance their response capabilities to ballistic missiles and ability to conduct combined military operations in light of escalating missile and nuclear threats from North Korea,” the South Korean Navy said.
During the drill, the three countries focused on mastering procedures including “detecting, tracking, sharing information on a virtual ballistic missile in the scenario of ballistic missile provocation by North Korea.”
The South Korean Navy’s Sejong the Great-class destroyer Yulgok Yi I with Aegis combat system, the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold and JMSDF’s Atago-class guided-missile destroyer JS Atago participated in the maritime exercise.
“The exercise has provided opportunities to strengthen security cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan and firmly establish our Navy’s response capabilities to ballistic missiles and readiness posture in the face of evolving North Korean missile and nuclear threats,” said Capt. Kim Ki-Yeong, commander of the destroyer Yulgok Yi I.
“Through practical training, we will further strengthen our combat readiness.”
The three countries previously staged ballistic missile exercises in international waters of the East Sea in February this year and October last year. The three also staged anti-submarine warfare exercises in international waters south of Jeju Island early this month to enhance the combined response capabilities to North Korea’s underwater threats.
South Korea, the US and Japan have ratcheted up security cooperation as North Korea has developed and fired various types of nuclear-capable missiles with different ranges targeting the three countries.
The three countries agreed to regularize missile defense exercises and anti-submarine exercises to deter and respond to nuclear and missile threats from North Korea at the 13th Defense Trilateral Talks on Friday in Washington. The annual, high-level trilateral security talks were again held for the first time since 2020.
They also reviewed their progress to share North Korea’s missile warning data in real time, which the South Korean, US and Japanese leaders committed to fulfill at the Phnom Penh Summit in Cambodia in November last year.
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