Japan seeks to ‘deepen defense cooperation beyond our US ally with like-minded countries,’ says defense minister.

Japan, the US and France began a joint military exercise in Japan on Tuesday.

The joint ground military exercises named “ARC21” will be held until Monday in southwestern Japan.

Nobuo Kishi, Japan’s Defense Minister, said his country seeks to “deepen defense cooperation beyond our US ally with ‘like-minded countries,’ Kyodo News reported.

“France is the only European country with a permanent military presence in the Indo-Pacific region,” Kishi told a press conference in Tokyo. “It is also a like-minded country that shares with Japan the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Joint military exercises come amid a push by US-led Quad to counter China in the region. Quad is a loose alliance of the US, Japan, Australia and India.

South China Sea is a significant area of contestations between China and regional countries, while the US navy fleets continue to roam through the Taiwan Strait against the wishes of Beijing.

China and Japan are face to face over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims in the East China Sea.

France controls the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean and French Polynesia in the South Pacific.

“The forces of the three countries will engage in urban warfare drills followed by amphibious operation exercises,” said Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF).

The troops from the three participating countries will remain stationed at GSDF Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki province in southwestern Japan for the first three days — where they will “plan the operations.”

They will be airlifted to the GSDF Kirishima training ground that straddles Miyazaki and Kagoshima provinces on Friday and Saturday to “engage in an urban warfare drill” at the facility, which is designed to look like a remote island.