Meanwhile, there is no close coordination with North Korea’s provocations
South Korea, US and Japan agree on “information sharing”
South Korea, the United States, and Japan held a trilateral summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the 13th (local time) and agreed to “share real-time North Korean missile warning information.” The intention was to improve intelligence cooperation to improve the ability to detect and evaluate threats posed by missiles flying from North Korea. For the first time in history, Korea, the United States and Japan also adopted a trilateral joint statement. Prior to this agreement, the United States also pledged to strengthen extended deterrence against South Korea and Japan.
The reason why the leaders of the three countries met separately during the multilateral diplomatic stage of the Asia Summit (EAS) and sat around the table and even issued the first joint comprehensive statement was because they judged that the threat of North Korea is serious. North Korea has launched 63 ballistic missiles this year alone, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). This is more than 2.5 times the previous record for the most launches per year (25 in 2019).
There are comments that the sharing of missile information is the starting point of security cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan. Amid North Korea’s threat of an upcoming seventh nuclear test, South Korea, the United States, and Japan have already formed a sufficient consensus to strengthen trilateral ties. In particular, security cooperation is a central axis supporting trilateral relations. Since its inception, Yoon Seok-yeol’s government has proposed strengthening Korea-US-Japan relations focusing on security cooperation as a key diplomatic and security stance. Accordingly, attention is focused on how the sharing of missile information between Korea, the United States and Japan will take place, and how this move will lead to the strengthening of trilateral security cooperation.
○ Korea and Japan also share information without US mediation
The core of the missile warning information sharing agreed by South Korea and the United States is that the three countries will work together to combat North Korea’s ballistic missile provocations in ‘real time’ without ‘off season’. Before the joint statement, the three countries had no connection to share in real time. This is because the sharing of missile warning and missile tracking data has been done entirely on a bilateral level with the US as the axis. According to the combined defense system, South Korea and the United States have detected missile warnings only through the USFK channel, and the United States and Japan from the USFK.
If a ballistic missile is launched from North Korea, the South Korean military uses detection assets such as Green Pine Radar, Aegis destroyers, and airborne early warning and control aircraft (Peace Eye) to identify detailed information such as the launch point of the missile, trajectory, and speed. At the same time, through the information sharing system between South Korea and the United States, the US military will go through the process of synthesizing missile information identified as reconnaissance assets. Japan similarly shares missile information with the US side in real time. A military official said, “In the case of information identified by the US reconnaissance satellite, the US side provides it during the ROK-US review meeting after the launch of the missile, but the initial missile data captured by the rest the detection assets, such. like USFK reconnaissance aircraft, are shared between the ROK and the US in real time,” he said.
South Korea and Japan signed the Korea-US-Japan Information Sharing Agreement (TISA) in 2014 and the Korea-Japan Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2016. However, information was not directly exchanged between the two countries in real time. As a result, it has been consistently noted that cooperation with North Korea’s sudden provocation is difficult. In the case of information exchange between the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Defense of Japan, the US Department of Defense is supposed to act as an intermediary, so real-time sharing is difficult. GSOMIA also has limitations as it is implemented in a way that both countries exchange information related to specifications after the launch of the missile. This is also the reason why South Korea and Japan often disagree about the identity of missiles fired by North Korea, the height and distance of the flight, and the number of missiles.
For example, on October 2, 2019, the Joint Chiefs of Staff analyzed that North Korea fired one submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with a flight height of about 910 km, but Japan fired two missiles, and the flight height reached 920 km He announced that it is believed that On October 19 last year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff also announced that North Korea had fired one SLBM as a result of South Korea-US intelligence assets, but the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary announced that it was “two shots .”
○ Real-time response by reducing errors in “Radar integration as if everything is training”
Sharing missile alerts can reduce these errors and buy time to detect and respond to North Korean missiles more quickly and accurately. As information assets increase, the blind spots caused by the earth’s circumference can be reduced, and precise data such as the initial launch of the missile, the flight process, the height of the peak, and the drop point after falling on the same can be obtained when The military believes that real-time sharing by the three countries will benefit South Korea and Japan. It is also expected that the problem of raising doubts about the reliability of the detection information due to the different specifications of the North Korean missiles identified by South Korea and Japan will also be resolved. A military official said, “When North Korea launches a missile into the East Sea, the South Korean military is able to detect more accurately than Japan immediately after the missile is launched and during the ascent phase, but as the missile move further from the Korean Peninsula. , its ability to gather information about the descent phase and landing area is better than Japan’s. I have no choice but to fall,” he said.
The ROK, the US and Japan have already exchanged information by conducting ballistic missile detection and tracking drills and missile warning drills in Hawaii and elsewhere, with Aegis ships from the three countries taking part on more than 20 occasions since 2014 until recently. A military official emphasized, “We need a system where information from not only Aegis ships but also multiple detection assets is shared in real time.”
Park Chul-kyun, former head of the Ministry of Defense’s Arms Control Inspection Team, said, “The real-time sharing of missile warnings is a permanent way of using the three countries’ radars, which were only integrated during specific exercises such as ‘Pacific Dragon’ If it means integrating into the North, it will have a threatening deterrent effect on North Korea,” he explained. He also said, “If Japan detects a missile first through satellites or ships at a point we can’t see, wouldn’t it? Is it possible to speed up the preparations for evacuation or interception even by 0.5 seconds?”
Patrick Cronin, chairman of Asia-Pacific Security at the Hudson Institute, said in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo on the 14th, “Sharing information about North Korea’s missiles in real time is part of a contingency plan (emergency response plan) that South Korea needs more than ever. ” This means that if the first button of sharing real-time missile warnings is mastered, subsequent steps such as information gathering, deployment of strategic assets, military training, and execution of operations will be closely held.
However, real-time missile warning sharing between South Korea, the United States and Japan is still at the agreement stage. There are some technical issues that need to be reviewed before sharing information. Accordingly, the defense authorities evaluate that it is not easy to expect tangible progress within the year. In the future, as a follow-up to the trilateral summit, the military plans to engage in working-level discussions to establish a real-time sharing system for missile warning information. A military official said, “Working level consultations will be a way for each country to discuss the information sharing system they are thinking about.”
It has not decided whether to expand existing pipelines such as Tissa or GSOMIA or create a new information sharing system. However, some expect this real-time sharing agreement to be a catalyst for GSOMIA.
○ Concerns about the agreement, such as opposition from China and the incorporation of MD
Some say the sharing of missile warnings between South Korea, the United States and Japan laid the groundwork for the United States’ integrated missile defense system. In particular, Mizoya is welcoming. In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on the 18th, Christopher Johnston, who served as East Asia Director at the White House National Security Council (NSC), said, “By sharing missile warning information in real time, the three countries are being able to assess the common threat situation “Having a missile defense system is the first step and a possible initial step in establishing a missile defense system,” he stressed. Former US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris, who served as commander of the US Pacific Command (now Indo-Pacific Command), said, “I think South Korea, the US and Japan should establish a direct organization , continuous and autonomous. missile warning system in Northeast Asia, and this agreement is a crucial step (to that end). “
Our Ministry of Defense is in a position where it draws a line called ‘extended interpretation’. The MD integration is more extensive and comprehensive, and it is explained that this warning agreement is not seen as primer water.
Apart from the positive assessments of some US experts, there are also concerns that it will become a source of conflict with China. This is because, from China’s point of view, this agreement can be seen as a kind of pressure move against China, sending a message that the United States and its allies can respond together if it launches a missile. Although China has not openly expressed displeasure with the sharing of missile warnings, there are comments that it may rebel against the implementation of the US extended deterrence pledge in the future.