Japanese and Vietnamese defense chiefs agreed Friday that a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel can make a port call at a strategic Vietnamese naval base in the South China Sea, Japanese officials said.

With the base in Cam Ranh Bay being relatively close to the disputed Spratly Islands — roughly 460 km — the port call by a Japanese defense vessel will not go unnoticed by China, which has created artificial islands in the waters to the annoyance of other claimants.

At the same meeting held in Hanoi, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and his Vietnamese counterpart, Phung Quang Thanh, also confirmed plans to conduct the first maritime exercise between the MSDF and the Vietnamese military.