Uneasy partners Japan and South Korea join in American air drills
By Matthew Pennington, APWASHINGTON -- Japan and South Korea's unprecedented joint participation in air force exercises over Alaska shows that America's two staunchest Asian allies are willing to cooperate on security despite their political differences.
August 23, 2013, 11:30 am TWN
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 airspace 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 together 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 frictions prevent a slow and steady improvement in their military cooperation. But he said the cooperation remains limited and is no cure for their political differences that last year derailed a bilateral agreement on sharing military information.
The tensions are rooted in Korean anger over Japan's attitude toward its colonial past and use of Korean sex slaves during World War II. The two nations also have conflicting claims to tiny Korean-administered islands in the seas between them.