U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia are deepening military ties in response to China’s growing assertiveness — and it’s going beyond mere rhetoric.

The two countries, which are working toward a new bilateral defense pact, recently conducted ground-breaking naval drills. Canberra is also acquiring new naval capabilities that will allow it to project military power far beyond its waters, in anticipation of a contingency involving China.

China’s increased assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region is driving some countries to deepen their defense and security cooperation. As tensions with Beijing grow over territorial disputes, access to maritime resources and the status of Taiwan, Tokyo and Canberra have stepped up their bilateral relationship in recent years in support of what they describe as “an Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, secure, inclusive and prosperous.”