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(LEAD) U.S. House passes resolution calling for strengthening U.S.-Korea-Japan cooperation to counter N. Korea

All Headlines 04:24 September 09, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS remarks by House Foreign Affairs committee chairman, expert calling for greater anti-submarine warfare cooperation in last 5 paras)
By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution calling for greater trilateral cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan to cope with ever-growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

The resolution (H.RES.634), which was introduced in March by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), passed on Wednesday, two days after North Korea test-fired a barrage of three Rodong medium-range ballistic missiles in the latest in a series of banned missile launches in defiance of the international community.

The passage also came just a day after the House reopened following a summer recess.

"A strong United States-Republic of Korea-Japan trilateral relationship is a stabilizing force for peace and security in the region, with capabilities to combat future provocations from North Korea," the resolution said.

It said the House "strongly condemns North Korea's nuclear tests, missile launches, and continued provocations" and reaffirms the importance of trilateral cooperation to "counter North Korea's destabilizing activities and nuclear proliferation, and to bolster regional security."

It also said the House "supports joint military exercises and other efforts to strengthen cooperation, improve defense capabilities, and oppose regional threats like North Korea" while "encouraging the deployment and coordination of regional advanced ballistic missile defense systems."

The resolution called for expansion of information and intelligence sharing between the three countries and stressed the importance of three-way cooperation "in tracking North Korea human rights violations and holding it accountable for its abuses against its citizens and the citizens of other countries."

The United States has long sought to bolster trilateral security cooperation with South Korea and Japan as a counterbalance to China's rise, leading efforts to put together the three-way military intelligence sharing agreement signed in late 2014.

The deal paved the way for Seoul and Tokyo to share such intelligence via the U.S. after the two countries failed to strike a bilateral intelligence sharing deal in 2012 due in part to negative public sentiment in South Korea about signing such a pact with the former colonial ruler.

The U.S. push for trilateral cooperation got a boost from a landmark agreement between South Korea and Japan in late December on resolving the issue of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, a major thorn that had soured not only relations between the two countries, but also hampered three-way cooperation with the U.S.

The House resolution also noted that the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the following month. It said the communist nation "has an estimated stockpile of nuclear material that could be converted into 10–16 nuclear weapons, with clear intentions to continue nuclear proliferation activities."

(LEAD) U.S. House passes resolution calling for strengthening U.S.-Korea-Japan cooperation to counter N. Korea - 1

"With North Korea's continued bellicose rhetoric and belligerent actions, it is critical that we stand with our Korean and Japanese allies to ensure the stability of the Asia-Pacific," said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Today, with an ever more belligerent North Korea, this partnership has never been more critical," he said ahead of the House voting, according to his office, adding that the North's submarine-launched ballistic missile test last month moved the regime "one step closer to being able to target any site in the Pacific."

On Thursday, Bruce Klingner, a senior Korea expert at the Heritage Foundation, also called for greater trilateral cooperation in countering the North's submarine warfare threats.

"When people think — and people sort of try to downplay the submarine launch ballistic missile threat, saying, 'The North Korean subs are old, they're noisy, they're not a threat.' Well, remember the Cheonan," Klinger said of the North's 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.

"It is a threat. It is a danger. Now that you have SLBMs being put on them or in the process of that, it clearly is sort of an exponential increase. It’s in all three countries’ interests to have the three navies working very closely on anti-submarine warfare," he said during a seminar hosted by the Korea Economic Institute.

jschang@yna.co.kr
(END)

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