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Defense chiefs of S. Korea, US, Japan to meet in Singapore amid NK threats

June 3, 2023 - 10:44 By Yonhap

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, arrives for the opening dinner for the 20th International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Friday. (AP-Yonhap)

SINGAPORE -- The defense chiefs of South Korea, the United States and Japan are set to hold trilateral talks in Singapore on Saturday, as the three sides seek to step up cooperation against growing military threats posed by Pyongyang.

The meeting between Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and his US and Japanese counterparts, Lloyd Austin and Yasukazu Hamada, respectively, will take place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue as tensions have flared following North Korea's failed yet defiant launch of a space rocket Wednesday.

The talks are expected to discuss ways to better respond to the North's threats, such as establishing a system to share North Korean missile warning data in real time and expanding three-way security exercises.

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 US and Japanese counterparts, Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, respectively, reached during a trilateral summit in Cambodia last November.

Currently, the real-time sharing of missile warning data is under way between the South Korean military and the US Forces Korea, and between the Japan Self-Defense Force and the US 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 sabre-rattling earlier this year, including the launch of a purported solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in April. Last year, the regime fired an unprecedented number of missiles.

Later in the day, Lee is also set to hold separate talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, where the two sides will likely discuss ways to resume high-level and working-level dialogue that had been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bilateral talks come as signs of tensions emerged with Seoul moving to align closer with Washington to confront North Korea and other regional and global security challenges amid an intensifying Sino-US rivalry. (Yonhap)