S Korea, Japan defence chiefs to hold 1st meet in 4 years

S Korea, Japan defence chiefs to hold 1st meet in 4 years
South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-Koo

SEOUL - The South Korean and Japanese defence ministers will hold talks for the first time in four years next week to discuss pressing regional issues including North Korea, Seoul said Thursday.

The talks between Han Min-Koo and his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani will take place on the sidelines of the May 29-31 Asia Security Summit in Singapore, the South Korean defence ministry said.

With relations between Seoul and Tokyo stuck in a long, bitter impasse over territorial issues and historical disputes, bilateral defence talks at the ministerial level have not been held since January 2011.

The agenda for the meeting includes the impact of a new set of US-Japan defence guidelines, which South Korea has voiced discomfort over, a Seoul defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

"Regional provocations and threats such as North Korea's recent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test will also be discussed," he said.

The new defence guidelines - announced during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Washington - allow Japan to shoot down missiles heading toward the US and come to the aid of third countries under attack.

South Korea is concerned about Japan exercising the doctrine of "collective self-defence" around the Korean peninsula without its consent.

But the two neighbours share common concerns about growing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

"Security co-operation between Japan and South Korea is necessary considering the threat from North Korea," Nakatani told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.

The North claimed on May 8 that a new SLBM had been successfully tested under the personal supervision of leader Kim Jong-Un. Launching missiles from submarines would allow the North to deploy weapons far beyond the Korean peninsula, but many experts believe it is still years away from developing a working SLBM capability.

Pyongyang already has mid-range missiles capable of reaching Japan, and frequent missile tests off its east coast are unnerving for Tokyo.

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