US and East Asia allies to test missile tracking systems

18 May 2016

The United States, South Korea and Japan will, for the first time, jointly test their ability to detect and track North Korean missiles , a South Korean Defense Ministry official said on Monday.

The drill will be conducted on June 28 — shortly before Japan and South Korea are scheduled to join the US-led Rim of the Pacific Exercise in waters off Hawaii — and will involve destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar system, said the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

During the drill, the ships will test their ability to collect signs of North Korean missile launches, as well as data on missile trajectories, and they will share the information through a common channel operated by the United States, the official said.

The nations agreed to conduct the drill after North Korea's growing missile threat was emphasized by its launching of a long-range rocket on Feb. 7, the official said. North Korea said it had used the rocket to place a satellite in orbit, but the United Nations has banned it from launching such rockets, calling them a cover for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The United States regularly holds separate military exercises with South Korea and Japan and shares military intelligence with them under bilateral treaties. But South Korea has been extremely wary of direct military cooperation with Japan, other than conducting search-and-rescue drills. Japan ruled Korea as a colony in the early 20th century.

Washington has been trying to persuade the two countries to work more closely to better cope with China's rising military power, as well as with the North Korean nuclear threat. Such efforts bore fruit in 2014, when Washington, Seoul and Tokyo signed an agreement to share intelligence on the North's nuclear and missile programs. Even in that pact, South Korea and Japan agreed to share their military secrets only through the United States. Washington must obtain permission to share intelligence it has received from one country with the other.


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