South Korea on Tuesday rejected recent calls by American lawmakers to join a U.S.-led antimissile framework in East Asia, the Korea Times reported.
"We are still clinging to our position that Korea will not join the U.S.-led [missile defense] system," defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
He was responding to a call contained in legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. The annual defense authorization bill would order the Pentagon to develop a plan for improving three-way collaboration with Japan and South Korea on ballistic missile defense. The measure aims for a greater degree of data sharing and system integration among the nations.
South Korea's evolving national antimissile framework -- the Korea Air and Missile Defense system -- is focused on responding to nonstrategic missiles launched from nearby North Korea. Seoul has rejected repeated proposals from Washington to connect its antimissile capabilities to a regional missile shield that the United States is constructing with support from Japan. The South wishes to avoid antagonizing China, which views the U.S.-led framework as aimed at containing its military rise, and is also leery about entering into defense agreements with Tokyo.
Washington is trying to persuade Seoul to agree to share military intelligence related to North Korean nuclear and missile threats directly with Japan in order to improve regional emergency response planning. South Korea shelved a draft intelligence sharing agreement with Tokyo two years ago after the plan caused a domestic furor due to lingering resentment toward Japan over its colonial and World War II actions.
The three countries are expected to consider a less-formal information-sharing proposal when their respective defense chiefs hold trilateral talks later this week on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
"We basically recognize the need to share information regarding the North's nuclear weapons and missiles," Kim said. "However, we are poised to approach the issue, taking into consideration the public sentiment."
An unidentified South Korean defense ministry official told the Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday that "the three sides are expected to reach a consensus over the necessity of such a deal, rather than going further into signing a memorandum of understanding."