The South Korean and Australian defense chiefs said Wednesday that Seoul was in talks to participate in the defense technology pillar of the AUKUS security pact — just weeks after Japan also said it was in discussions to join.

"During today's meeting, we discussed the possibility of partnering with AUKUS Pillar II," South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said via an interpreter when asked about the pact at a live-streamed joint news conference following a meeting between South Korean and Australian defense and foreign ministers in Melbourne. "We do welcome that the members are considering Korea as a Pillar II partner.”

The AUKUS pact, announced in 2021, involves Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Widely seen as a means of countering China’s growing military clout in the Indo-Pacific region, the grouping’s primary goal, known as Pillar I, is to provide Australia with its own fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines.