HELSINKI, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- Defense cooperation between the five Nordic countries took a step forward on Monday as they signed a document on the exchange of air surveillance data.
Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto said the document would improve situation awareness in peace time and also enhance flight safety.
Niinisto noted that in the northern areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway, the air forces of the three Nordic countries carry out cross-border training almost weekly.
Besides Niinisto, the signatories of the agreement were his counterparts Claus Hjort Frediksen from Denmark, Frank Bakke-Jensen from Norway and Peter Hultqvist of Sweden. A civil servant signed on behalf of Iceland.
In addition, the chairmanship of the Nordic defense cooperation (Nordeco) will transfer to Norway from now on. The newly appointed Norwegian defense minister Frank Bakke-Jensen looked forward to enhanced cooperation between Finland and Sweden and the Nordic NATO members.
"Nordic cooperation is not an alternative to the NATO alliance though," he underlined.
Nordic military cooperation will soon bring in unified outfit as well. Niinisto said the plan to introduce similar combat outfit for all Nordic infantry was progressing and would start functioning sometime next year.
Joint purchases will be adopted, partially for saving cost. The textile designs could be different in every country. In Finland, at least the current uniforms introduced in 2005 would remain in use for off duty and festive occasions.
Among the five Nordic countries, Iceland, Denmark, Norway are NATO members, whereas Sweden and Finland are outside the alliance but maintaining close partnership with it.
Visiting U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis did not attend the gathering of the five Nordic countries, but is meeting on Tuesday with Finnish Defense Minister Niinisto and Swedish Defense Minister Hultqvist together.
Matti Pesu, a researcher at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, told Finnish news agency STT that the tripartite meeting on Tuesday will be the first of its kind and more of such meetings are expected to come in the future.
Niinisto also said that the tripartite encounter is practical as the three countries have attended same exercises. The major Swedish operation "Aurora" have seen units from Finland and the United States.