House committee calls for trilateral defense cooperation between S. Korea, Japan and U.S.

July 3, 2023

The House Committee on Armed Services is seeking to encourage trilateral defense cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the United States, a committee report showed Monday.

In a report on the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the committee also stressed the need for the U.S. to develop and deploy more advanced missile defense systems against North Korea’s evolving missile threat.

“The committee recognizes the importance of defense cooperation involving Japan and the Republic of Korea to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said the report, dated June 30, referring to South Korea by its official name.

The report suggests the NDAA for fiscal year 2024 should require the Department of Defense to provide a briefing to congressional defense committee by March 1, 2024 on “recent defense cooperation efforts involving Japan and the Republic of Korea.”

The briefing should also include “a description of any opportunities or initiatives through which the United States may facilitate enhanced bilateral defense cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea or enhanced trilateral defense cooperation among the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea,” along with “an identification of any new or additional cooperative steps that may be taken by the United States, Japan, or the Republic of Korea to deter destabilizing activities.”

The call comes amid a recent thaw in South Korea-Japan relations that had been long tainted by historical issues surrounding Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea.

Seoul restored its bilateral defense information sharing agreement, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement, with Japan in March, following its unilateral decision to mend ties with Tokyo earlier in the year.

The countries have since agreed to launch a new system together with their shared ally, the U.S., that will allow sharing their real-time missile warning data with one another.

Seoul officials have said the new system will officially be launched before the end of the year.

The House committee report highlighted threats posed by North Korea’s evolving missile capabilities.

“The committee is concerned about missile proliferation by China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other countries that undermine security of the United States homeland,” said the report.

To this end, the report said the House armed services committee is “fully supportive of efforts to modernize existing homeland missile defense capabilities, including interceptors and radars.

Noting such capabilities will take years to become operational, the committee suggested that the NDAA should encourage the secretary of defense to “continue pursuing options to field existing capabilities, including Aegis BMD and SM-3, should changes in the threat dictate a need to increase homeland missile defense capabilities beyond the current architecture.”