Japan, the United States and South Korea affirmed Sunday that their system to share real-time information on North Korean ballistic missiles is "in the final stage" toward launch by year-end, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said.

Kihara told reporters in Tokyo after holding a virtual meeting with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts, Lloyd Austin and Shin Won Sik, that the three countries will further accelerate their work on the mechanism, saying "smooth progress" has been seen in their arrangements.

Photo shows (from R) Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara (in small screen) and his U.S. and South Korean counterparts, Lloyd Austin and Shin Won Sik, during their virtual meeting on Nov. 12, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Japanese Defense Ministry)(Kyodo)

Currently, the United States has a system that is separately linked to Japan and South Korea for detecting and tracking Pyongyang's missiles, but its key Asian security allies lack a mechanism for immediately sharing such information.

Amid increasing trilateral cooperation on issues including repeated missile test-firings by Pyongyang, the three countries' leaders agreed in August to the goal of operationalizing the real-time sharing of missile warning data "by the end of 2023."

The planned system is expected to enable the three nations to detect and track projectiles fired by North Korea more swiftly and accurately.

The three defense chiefs also agreed during their talks on Sunday to enhance their cooperation through annual three-way drills "in multiple realms," Kihara added.

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