[Column] The importance of trilateral cooperation

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[Column] The importance of trilateral cooperation

Kim Jin-hyung

The author, a former commander of the 1st Fleet of the Navy, is an adjunct professor of IT policy and management at Soongsil University.

During a June meeting in Singapore, defense ministers from South Korea, Japan and the United States agreed to cooperate to counter North Korean threats, with such things as missile defense exercises and routine exercises to detect and trace the North’s ballistic missiles. The three defense chiefs also agreed to cooperate closely for complete denuclearization and establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Some raised concerns about the agreements, linking them to the possible militarization of Japan. However, taking into account the weapons systems of the three countries and dynamics of international politics, we need a bold shift in military cooperation among the three.

To counter the North’s continuing missile threats, the South Korean Navy, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and ships of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces conducted trilateral exercises twice in the East Sea in September and October. Since October, the North staged more provocations using aircraft, ballistic missiles and artillery. It fired a Hwasong-17 ICBM over the East Sea on Nov. 14.

The North fired an ICBM capable of reaching the United States in addition to short and mid-range missiles able to carry nuclear warheads, demonstrating its advanced missile capability. When it completes its SLBM program, not only South Korea but also many countries in the liberal democratic bloc, including Japan and the U.S., will fall into the North’s range of nuclear and missile attacks. The North’s nuclear and missile programs will be complete strategically and tactically.

South Korea-Japan-U.S. military cooperation has two important meanings in thoroughly preparing for the nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. First, the three countries can maximize surveillance and response capabilities against the North’s nuclear and missile threats by building an integrated network of their own intelligence assets. South Korea is the country that is most directly threatened by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Japan is also a target of a direct attack and the U.S. faces an undesirable situation.

It takes a long time, enormous efforts and expenses for South Korea, Japan and America to each operate detection and response capabilities against the North’s nuclear and missile threats. Detecting and responding to a ballistic missile requires various advanced systems using high technology. An SLMB in particular requires detection of a submarine moving under water before detecting the missile from the ground and air, so the task is even more difficult.

A combined network should be established by using the South Korean military’s detection systems for ballistic missiles, the U.S.’s satellites and advanced electronic and communication systems and airborne early warning and control systems, and Japan’s advanced missile detection system and accumulated maritime information system. If the three countries can upgrade their detection and response capabilities against the North’s nuclear weapons, missiles and submarines, it will help restrain the North’s provocations. To establish more meticulous detection and response powers, military cooperation among the three countries is imperative.

Second, South Korea must take a leading role as a direct participant to handle security of the Korean Peninsula. Japan and the U.S. are a security community based on the Japan-U.S. alliance. It is undesirable that the two countries create a separate cooperative system of their own to deal with the security matters of the peninsula.

We must warn against operation of a cooperative system excluding South Korea to handle North Korea and Korean Peninsula issues. South Korea must play a central role. We have a bitter history of other countries’ interventions and control over our own matters. As of now, our military, economic and diplomatic powers are strong. We must overcome our vague fears of and grudge complex against Japan and take control over matters on the peninsula.

South Korea must actively lead efforts to establish trilateral military cooperation with Japan and the U.S. as well as bilateral cooperation with Japan. The General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan, signed in 2016, faced controversy during the Moon Jae-in administration, but it must be restored. Through this, we must create smooth intelligence communication systems bilaterally with Japan and trilaterally with Japan and the U.S. Military cooperation among the three must also be developed in various areas, including logistics.

A bold push for tripartite military cooperation based on the Korea-U.S. alliance and the Korea-Japan military cooperation will deter the North’s provocations and allow us to manage Korean Peninsula affairs with stability. It will also significantly contribute to Korea’s diplomatic efforts to become a global pivotal state.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)