With a joint fighter program, navy port calls and information exchanges in F-35B operations, Italy and Japan are quickly expanding defense and security ties as Rome seeks to intensify engagement in the Indo-Pacific while Tokyo broadens its network of partners to counterbalance China's growing military ambitions.

The rapid pace of bilateral military engagement has become evident in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Maritime Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai announced that the service can exchange information with the Italian Navy on the operation of the F-35B fighter aircraft both countries are acquiring.

Italy and Japan are procuring both the F-35A (conventional take-off and landing) and F-35B (short take-off and vertical landing) variants of the advanced aircraft, with Rome set to field 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs and Tokyo planning to acquire up to 105 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs over the coming years — the most of any non-U.S. customer.