South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed to hold missile defense and anti-submarine exercises regularly to counter growing North Korean threats during their senior-level defense talks in Washington earlier this week, Seoul's defense ministry said Saturday.
They reached the agreement at a session of the Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) on Friday (Washington time), amid tensions caused by Pyongyang's recent weapons tests, including that of what it claims to be a solid-fuel Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday.
The first DTT session in three years was yet another indication of tightening security cooperation among the three nations. Since its previous session in 2020, it had not been held amid COVID-19 and historical tensions between Seoul and Tokyo.
"The three sides discussed the regularization of missile defense exercises and anti-submarine exercises to deter and respond to DPRK's nuclear and missile threats," the joint statement reads. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The three sides also discussed ways to resume trilateral exercises, including maritime interdiction and anti-piracy exercises, in order to maintain peace and stability in the region, it added.
The representatives condemned "in the strongest terms" the North's repeated violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, including its nuclear and missile provocations and illicit ship-to-ship transfers.
They also warned that a North Korean nuclear test would be met with a "strong and resolute" response from the international community.
But they reiterated the "path to dialogue remains open toward peaceful and diplomatic resolution" with the North and urged it to return to negotiations.
They agreed to hold the next DTT session in Seoul on a mutually determined date next year.
South Korean Deputy Defense Minister for Policy Heo Tae-keun, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner and Japanese Director General for Defense Policy Kazuo Masuda led their respective delegations at the latest DTT session.
Source: Yonhap News Agency