Unthinkable just a few years ago, the U.S., Japanese and South Korean militaries on Sunday held their first-ever trilateral aerial exercise, highlighting astonishingly fast progress in expanding defense cooperation amid common security threats.

But while some view the move as signaling a "new era" in security ties, questions remain as to how long the current political momentum will hold and whether this is merely another swing of the pendulum for trilateral defense cooperation.

Seen as an example of Washington’s “extended deterrence” strategy, Sunday’s aerial exercise was the first to bring together South Korean and Japanese fighter aircraft for a joint escort of a U.S. nuclear weapons-capable B-52 bomber over the Sea of Japan.