The naval forces of the United States, Japan, Australia and India began their Malabar joint defense exercise in Sydney on Friday, marking the first time Australia has hosted the war games amid China's growing assertiveness in the region.

The four Indo-Pacific nations, part of a cooperation framework known as the "Quad," will conduct joint training involving maritime and air defense drills through Aug. 21 in Sydney Harbor and off Australia's east coast, with some 2,000 personnel taking part, including around 170 Japanese.

At a news conference ahead of the exercises on Thursday, naval commanders from the four countries called for all parties operating in the region to do so transparently in support of the international, rules-based order.