(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks on talks throughout; CHANGES headline, lead, photo)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SINGAPORE, June 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed Saturday to operate a system to share North Korean missile warning data in real time "within this year," Seoul's defense chief said, in another move to beef up trilateral cooperation against Pyongyang's growing military threats.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made the remarks after he met trilaterally with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Lloyd Austin and Yasukazu Hamada, respectively, on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, amid renewed tensions over the North's botched yet defiant launch of a space rocket earlier this week.
"While actively implementing the agreed-upon measures between the leaders of South Korea, the United States and Japan, the three countries agreed to elevate security cooperation to another level," he told reporters, referring to the agreement from a trilateral summit in Cambodia last November.
"Especially regarding the real-time sharing of North Korean missile warning data, we decided to connect the respective information sharing systems -- one run between South Korea and the United States and the other between Japan and the United States -- and operate the combined one within this year," he added.
For this, the three countries will hold working-level talks at an early date, he said.
The three countries have been working to flesh out the agreement on the data sharing from a summit that President Yoon Suk Yeol and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, respectively, reached during the Cambodia summit.
Currently, the real-time sharing of missile warning data is under way between the South Korean military and the U.S. Forces Korea, and between the Japan Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Forces Japan. The three countries have been working on the data sharing among them based on a trilateral information sharing arrangement signed in 2014.
Trilateral cooperation has gained traction in the wake of Pyongyang's saber-rattling earlier this year, including North Korea's failed yet defiant launch of a space rocket Wednesday and the firing of a purported solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in April. Last year, the regime fired an unprecedented number of missiles.
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