Japan and the United States are set to allow private defense contractors to directly share and transfer information on defense technology, the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday.

The new system, which aims to increase the speed and efficiency of joint research and development, will first be applied to the missile defense system Tokyo and Washington are working on to ward off potential threats from North Korea.

According to the Nikkei, an agreement in principle was reached last month at a meeting of defense and foreign ministers from Japan and the United States in Washington, with a formal agreement due later this month.

Defense Ministry officials were not available for comment.

At present, Japan and the United States sign a memorandum of understanding for each joint research development project they undertake, with information passed between companies only through the government.

Under the new system, companies could conclude technical assistance agreements that would give them direct access to the other firm's databases.

The process is needed due to the increasing complexity of research and the vast amounts of information involved, a Defense Ministry official was quoted by the Nikkei as saying.

Japan speeded up implementation of its missile defense program after North Korea fired a volley of missiles last July, trucking its first PAC-3 interceptors into a military base north of Tokyo in March.

The United States has PAC-3 land-based interceptors on the southern island of Okinawa and SM-3 ship-to-air interceptors stationed at the Japanese port of Yokosuka.