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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 23)

All News 06:59 February 23, 2023

Security cooperation to normalization of ties

On Wednesday, South Korea, the United States and Japan conducted a joint missile defense exercise against North Korea on the East Sea. The drill was aimed at detecting, tracking and intercepting a North Korean ballistic missile like in a real battle. It was their second joint missile defense drill following an early one last October. After the North ratcheted up the level of missile provocations, defending against North Korean missiles has emerged as the most urgent security issue for the three countries.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our navy's Sejong the Great-class destroyer first detected an imaginary firing of a missile from North Korea and delivered the information to another aegis-equipped U.S. destroyer nearby, which again relayed that information to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force via a U.S. data link system. In the simulation, the U.S. warship successfully intercepted the North Korean missile with an SM-3 surface-to-air missile.

The drill carries great significance, as it signals a resumption of military cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo after a long diplomatic stalemate from the Moon Jae-in administration's political exploitation of their relations. The Ministry of National Defense said the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan has been nearly restored through the joint drill at sea.

The Seoul-Tokyo security cooperation should be expanded beyond normalization. Given North Korea's possession of various types of ballistic missiles targeting South Korea, Japan and as far as the U.S. mainland, the bilateral security cooperation is important more than ever. As the U.S. bases in Japan can be targets of the North's missile attacks, Japan can get entangled in a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

After the joint maritime drill, Seoul and Tokyo need to further expand their military information sharing through the Gsomia. At the same time, both sides must resolve the wartime forced labor dispute fast. In a press conference after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart on the sidelines of the Munich Security Summit last week, Foreign Minister Park Jin said he urged Japan to "make a sincere political decision." We hope Tokyo does its fair share in addressing the issue.

As the Ukraine war continues, the world is headed to a global security crisis. China could invade Taiwan around 2027 and North Korea will certainly threaten the security of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. after completing its missile technology. We cannot rule out the possibility of a full-fledged standoff between democratic states and authoritarian states. The government must deal with a multi-faceted security crisis by mending ties with Japan first.

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