Defense chiefs from the U.S., Japan and South Korea affirmed that they would finalize a trilateral multi-year exercise plan by the end of the year as Pyongyang continues to seek advanced military capabilities, APA reports citing Nikkei Asia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took part in trilateral talks with South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Shin Won-sik and Minoru Kihara. Austin and Shin participated from the Defense Ministry in Seoul while Kihara joined online from Tokyo.
According to a U.S. statement released after the meeting, the three leaders discussed the growing threat of North Korea's nuclear and missile program. They condemned Pyongyang's reconnaissance satellite launch, accusing it of violating resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council.
During the hybrid format talk, the defense chiefs affirmed that the trilateral exercise plan should be concluded by the end of this year, keeping momentum for more operational cooperation to counter North Korea.
The multi-year plans will primarily focus on maritime and air domains, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters. In August, leaders of the three countries agreed at the Camp David to draw up a plan for joint exercises over the upcoming years
"Historically, military cooperation and trilateral cooperation between the three partners has been episodic, sometimes in response to [North Korea's] provocations," a second senior U.S. defense official said. "What we are doing here is trying to institutionalize and regularize this trilateral cooperation," the official noted.
The defense leaders also vowed to launch a mechanism to share real-time data on North Korea's missiles by the end of the year as the three countries agreed in November last year.