- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2014

The United States is attempting to lay the groundwork for an information-sharing system with Japan and South Korea to supplement a missile defense system that would guard against an unpredictable, nuclear-capable North Korea.

White House National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice proposed the collaborative effort to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an April visit to the country with President Obama, according to Japanese media.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that the plan requires the trio of world powers to immediately share information regarding an upcoming missile launch that South Korea can detect with its radar. Information sharing would lead to an even more effective missile defense shield among the three countries, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The plan hinges on the melding of U.S.-Japan missile defenses and South Korea’s missile tracking ability, per the Yomiuri Shimbun, which also pointed out that Tokyo and Seoul have bristled at the notion of defense cooperation.

The proposal comes just as North Korea is preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test. The country has not conducted a nuclear test since February 2013.

North Korea has long been a focal point of concern for its neighboring countries and the United States. Now, with the approach of a new missile test, the question on the table is how to best address the growing threat that the country poses, according to Dean Cheng, an analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center.

“When North Korea says we will turn Seoul into a sea of flames, that’s not an idle threat,” Mr.Cheng said. “That’s a very real possibility.”

Although the United States and South Korea are often on the receiving end of North Korea’s threats they are not, however, the only world powers concerned with the renewed nuclear activity.

China is also trying to apply diplomatic pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the hopes that he will abandon his nuclear goals, according to Reuters. Beijing has not threatened Pyongyang with explicit consequences should it proceed with the launch. Still, the application of diplomatic pressure in the face of a significant weapons test is significant because China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic ally, per Reuters.

The idea of the three countries sharing intelligence with each other about North Korea’s missile launches is not new, according to Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Pool, a Pentagon spokesman who specializes in Asian issues. The process of establishing an agreement is ongoing, but no significant progress has been made, according to Col. Pool. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will likely broach the topic again during The International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit scheduled to take place at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore May 30 to June 1.

“This will probably be discussed, again, during the Shangri-La Dialogue at the end of the month,” he said. “I do not expect any agreement being signed anytime soon.”