The US Space Force is looking to boost allies’ tracking of North Korean missiles
Written by Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. and South Korean militaries want closer integration of their systems to track North Korean missile launches, U.S. Space Force officials said on Wednesday, an effort that could soon see more cooperation with Japan as well.
Led by a small contingent of US Space Force personnel—the first formal component of the branch to be established overseas—the allies see close space integration as key to better tracking North Korean threats and responding to conflict.
US President Joe Biden agreed with South Korean President Yoon Sok Yul and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Aug. 18 summit that by the end of this year, the three countries will exchange real-time North Korea missile warning data.
Aerospace force officials told reporters at a news conference at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul, that the exact details of this trilateral cooperation are being worked out at higher levels.
“My understanding is that there are future bilateral and possibly trilateral agreements in the pipeline, especially in terms of the missile warning part…with that data being shared,” said Maj. Matt Taylor, deputy commander of the US Space Forces-Korea.
He said there are planned gatherings of employees to collaborate and share processes and procedures.
“None of these details have been revised or decided upon at this point, but those discussions are ongoing,” Taylor added.
The officials said the South Korean space force component, which began operating in December, has so far focused on closely integrating with the South Koreans and ensuring that US forces there get more access to space assets.
Missile tracking data, including information from the US Space Infrared System (SBIRS), which can detect missile launches, is already being shared automatically with US allies through early warning systems, Staff Sergeant Sean Stafford said.
South Korea and Japan mostly rely on land and sea radars to track launches, but the South Korean Air Force’s Space Operations Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kim Jong-ha, said the addition of space capabilities would provide a “three-dimensional” view of threats.
Tal Inbar, a missile and space expert at Israel’s Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Studies, said that given South Korea’s pursuit of developing more anti-ballistic missile systems, obtaining data from American and possibly Japanese systems would help it detect targets.
“The whole region can reap a lot from collaboration, synergy and interoperability of systems,” he said at a news conference in Seoul.
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Jerry Doyle)