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The Japanese and U.S. coast guards held rare joint exercises over the weekend near the Ogawasawa Islands, some 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, the Japan Coast Guard announced Monday.

The exercises, which involved the Japan Coast Guard’s 6,500-ton Akitsushima patrol vessel and the U.S. Coast Guard’s 4,500-ton Kimball cutter, took place between the islands of Chichijima and Hahajima and lasted nearly four hours Sunday.

The exercises came as the China Coast Guard continues to send ships near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by China, where they are known as the Diaoyu.

The Japan Coast Guard said cooperation between the two sides is growing in importance as they seek to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

“The Japan Coast Guard, together with the U.S. Coast Guard, are expected to play leading roles in strengthening cooperation between maritime security agencies around the world,” the JCG said in a statement.

It announced last month the scheduled deployment of the 180-ton patrol vessel Mikazuki to the Ogasawara islets, the first such dispatch to the islands.

Sunday’s exercises were also seen as yet another way of pushing back against growing Chinese maritime assertiveness, including a new law passed earlier this month that allows its coast guard to use military force in waters the country claims, including around the Senkakus.

The new law allows the Chinese Coast Guard to take “all necessary measures,” including the use of weapons, against foreign organizations or individuals that violate Chinese sovereignty or jurisdiction.

China has ramped up the number of operations its coast guard conducts around the Senkakus in a bid to wear down the Japan Coast Guard and test Tokyo’s mettle on the issue. This culminated last year, when Japan spotted Chinese government vessels inside contiguous and territorial waters near the uninhabited islets a record 333 days.

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