Korea flying with Japan in Alaska air force drill

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Korea flying with Japan in Alaska air force drill

WASHINGTON - Japan and South Korea’s unprecedented joint participation in air force exercises over the state of Alaska shows that America’s two staunchest Asian allies are willing to cooperate on security despite their political differences.

Their aircraft have been flying the annual Red Flag Alaska training drills that end Friday, along with U.S. and Australian forces.

The exercise has included simulated combat maneuvers in which Korean fighter jets helped secure air space for military transport planes from Japan and other nations.

In recent years, Seoul and Tokyo have taken tentative steps to improve security cooperation. They have exchanged observers during military exercises and engaged jointly in naval training drills. But this is the first time their fighter jets have flown in the same exercise.

Jim Schoff, a former Pentagon adviser for East Asia policy, said that’s a sign Japan and South Korea are not letting their bilateral political frictions prevent a slow and steady improvement in their military cooperation.

But he said the cooperation remains limited, and is no cure for political differences that last year derailed a bilateral agreement on sharing military information.

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