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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S., Japan defense chiefs agree to strengthen joint defense

All News 19:18 June 04, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more info; ADDS photo)
By Park Boram

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea, the United States and Japan reaffirmed Saturday their commitment to work together to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, Seoul's defense ministry said.

The defense ministers from the three countries, Han Min-koo, Ash Carter and Gen Nakatani, came to an understanding that the partners "are facing common challenges including North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," the Ministry of National Defense said after a three-way meeting in Singapore.

The talks were held on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Han, Carter and Nakatani reaffirmed their pledge to step up collaboration under the framework of the annual Defense Trilateral Talks, a deputy minister-level consultative body, especially on the crucial sector of information sharing on North Korean security threats, the ministry said in a statement.

In late 2014, the three military partners also signed the Trilateral Information Sharing Arrangement to better circulate military intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in a bid to jointly counter the communist country.

During Saturday's meeting that came after a one-year hiatus, the defense chiefs discussed their upcoming joint Pacific Dragon anti-ballistic missile defense exercise set to take place in the waters off Hawaii ahead of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), scheduled to run from June 30 to Aug. 4.

The exercise, the first of its kind and to be held on June 28, will bring together destroyers equipped with the Aegis Combat System from the three nations to boost interoperability in detecting and tracking North Korea's ballistic missiles.

On top of the North Korean nuclear issue, the ministers also concurred that the freedom of navigation and overflight should be fully respected in the South China Sea, the ministry said.

During the meeting, the defense chiefs jointly denounced North Korea's fourth nuclear test and recent ballistic missile launches with the "harshest wordings ever" and promised mutual efforts for the thorough implementation of the punitive United Nations Security Council resolution adopted in March.

From April to late May, North Korea test-launched four Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the latest series of military provocations. South Korean officials said the launches of all the four missiles ended in failure.


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