Japan's ground troops on Tuesday began a large-scale joint exercise with the United States and France for the first time on Japanese soil to increase cooperation in the face of China's growing assertiveness.

"ARC21" will be held through next Monday as Tokyo seeks to deepen defense cooperation beyond its U.S. ally to "like-minded countries," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said ahead of the drills.

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