Japan and South Korea are planning to link their radars through a US system, providing Tokyo with real-time data to improve its ability to detect launches from North Korea, which has nuclear weapons and continues to fire missiles at an unprecedented pace.
The impending deal, first reported by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, would link the radar and command and control systems used by the Self-Defense Forces and US forces in Japan with the South Korean and US forces there through the US Indo-Pacific Command, based in Hawaii.
This would avoid the thorny issue of two non-allied countries – Japan and South Korea – sharing sensitive information instantly since they would do so through their mutual ally, the United States.
Asked about the report, the top Japanese government spokesman said no decision had been made, but noted that the leaders of the three nations had agreed in November to work to share real-time data on North Korean missiles, something they said would be “an important step for deterrence, peace and stability.”
“As the security environment around Japan and South Korea, including the situation around North Korea’s nuclear missiles, becomes increasingly dire and complex, trilateral cooperation is increasingly important,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, adding that coordination on the issue between defense officials from the three countries was continuing.
The South Korean Defense Ministry was also silent but said talks on the matter were continuing.
The three countries are expected to announce an agreement on the matter during the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit, to be held next month in Singapore. During Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s two-day visit to South Korea to meet with President Yoon Suk-yeol this week, Tokyo and Seoul have already agreed in principle.
Details of the deal are expected to be confirmed during a trilateral summit involving Kishida, Yoon and Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Group of Seven leaders meeting in Hiroshima next week.
After years of cold relations between Tokyo and Seoul, in recent months, Kishida and Yoon have strengthened ties, especially in the field of security, since North Korea has shown increasingly powerful missiles capable of evading the defenses of both countries.
Strengthening defense ties with Seoul has been a top priority for Tokyo, which has struggled to track North Korean missile launches, most recently last month when it briefly issued a rare alert for Hokkaido residents to take cover after a North Korean missile was thought to be headed for the northernmost prefecture.
The Defense Ministry later stated that it believed the multistage missile’s in-flight separation may have confused its tracking systems, prompting the alert.