President Joe Biden meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during the G7 Summit at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, May 21, 2023.

President Joe Biden meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during the G7 Summit at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, May 21, 2023. (Cameron Smith/White House)

SEOUL, South Korea — A new system to share information on North Korea’s missile launches became operational Tuesday as part of a broader plan for the United States, South Korea and Japan to shore up their defenses against the communist regime, according to South Korea’s military.

The real-time data sharing system between Washington, Seoul and is “operating normally,” according to a news release Tuesday from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense.

The concept was first introduced by President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Nov. 13, 2022. The system would “improve each country’s ability to detect and assess the threat posed by incoming missiles,” the three leaders said in a joint statement.

The three countries conducted initial tests of the system the following year and imposed a December deadline for implementation. 

“We are committed to pursuing enhanced ballistic missile defense cooperation to counter [North Korea’s] nuclear and missile threats,” the three leaders said in a joint statement during a separate summit on Aug. 18. “We reaffirm that achieving a world without nuclear weapons is a common goal for the international community, and we continue to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.”

The system came online just after North Korea fired ballistic missiles Sunday and Monday. 

A North Korean short-range ballistic missile flew roughly 354 miles late Sunday before splashing down in the East Sea, or Sea of Japan, according to the National Defense Ministry.

About 10 hours later, North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile that traveled over 620 miles at a lofted angle before landing in the East Sea, the ministry said Monday.

Monday’s launch was a solid-fueled Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile that flew over 622 miles at a peak altitude of 4,050 miles, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday. The missile had a flight time of over 73 minutes, according to KCNA, and is the communist regime’s fifth ICBM launch so far this year.

Monday’s test was overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and conducted “to clearly show [Pyongyang’s] nuclear strategic forces’ overwhelming … will and matchless strength to the enemies,” KCNA reported.

The state-run outlet added that the launch “had no negative effect on the security of the neighboring countries.”

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said by phone Tuesday that all the North’s past launches helped improve the functionality of the apparatus. He deferred when asked for additional details of the data sharing system and whether North Korea’s launches this week affected the timing of the system’s activation.

South Korea officials regularly speak to the media on a customary condition of anonymity.

In addition to the new system, the U.S., South Korean and Japanese militaries established plans to hold multi-year trilateral drills starting next year, according to the release. These drills will increase “qualitatively and quantitatively” and are critical in their defense against North Korea, the release said.

Air forces from the three countries conducted their first-ever joint drill Oct. 22, when a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52H Stratofortress bomber flew alongside South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in air-defense zones south of the Korean Peninsula that overlap Japan and South Korea.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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