The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened its East Asia and Pacific regional office in Tokyo on Monday, aiming to shore up its ability to respond quickly to a future public health emergency.

The regional office, located inside the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, will collaborate with 26 countries and territories in the region, including Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations.

With the memory of the COVID-19 pandemic still fresh, officials who gathered Monday at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo for a ceremony to mark the office’s opening emphasized the need for collaboration among public health authorities.