Subscribe
South Korean air force F-16 fighter jets it parked at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on June 1, 2017.

South Korean air force F-16 fighter jets it parked at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on June 1, 2017. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Six South Korean F-16 jet fighters were diverted to a U.S. military base in Tokyo after a refueling aircraft malfunctioned, U.S. Forces Japan officials said Thursday.

U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman said the aircraft are headed to Alaska to participate in the annual Red Flag exercise.

The diversion was forced by “a mechanical issue with an air-to-air refueler that was scheduled to support their movement,” Hoffman said.

Earlier in the week, a dozen U.S. A-10 jets stopped at Yokota on their way to Alaska from Osan Air Base, South Korea.

The presence of South Korean military planes in Japan is unusual.

American officials have worked for years to get their two allies’ defense forces to cooperate, but conflicts over a disputed island and historical grievances over World War II remain. The two nations did agree last year on an intelligence-sharing agreement involving North Korea.

The planes were parked on the east side of the base as of Thursday afternoon. The South Korean jets will depart as soon as the refueling issue is resolved, Hoffman said.

robson.seth@stripes.com

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up