U.S. Navy seeks S. Korea's bigger role in ballistic missile defense

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Yonhap) -- A top U.S. Navy official expressed hope Monday for more joint ballistic missile defense exercises with South Korea and Japan, citing the South Korean Navy's KDX-III Aegis destroyers.

"They can detect and track, and have proven it in our missile range in Hawaii, ballistic missiles," Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations said at a security forum here.

South Korea is also working to acquire more advanced equipment to intercept ballistic missiles, he pointed out.

"Now, that closes a loop," the admiral said. "I mean, they could contribute today because A) they're skilled, and B) they have a great capability."

He was emphasizing the importance of trilateral cooperation that aso involves Japan, especially in countering North Korea's missile threats.

But there is a matter of historical issues between South Korea and Japan and the United States has been encouraging the two sides to get past that for regional security, said Greenert.

He strongly hinted that the navies of three regional powers held a joint ballistic defense training as recently as in spring.

"We had an opportunity (for that). It was earlier in the spring," he said. "And we did it last fall, where we had, you know, three ships: one of ours, Japan and Korea. And the more we can do that, the better of we'll be."

On Japan's move toward the use of the right to collective self-defense, he said it would enable Japan and the United States to "actually operate together as a unit in most aspects of the mission" including missile defense patrol and strike group.

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