Senior diplomats from Japan, the United States and the Philippines on Thursday pledged to further promote their cooperation, the Foreign Ministry said, paving the way for their first-ever trilateral summit next month.

The senior officials also said that any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force cannot be tolerated, according to the ministry, in an apparent criticism of China's increasing maritime assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Vice Foreign Minister Masataka Okano, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Maria Theresa Lazaro, an undersecretary of the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department, met in Tokyo.

The three agreed on close collaboration to maintain and reinforce a "free and open international order based on the rule of law" and toward economic growth in the region, the ministry said.

At the outset of the talks, Okano said they would ensure thorough preparation for the summit between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., scheduled for April 11 in Washington.

The diplomats also vowed to steadily advance their partnership in areas such as maritime security, cyberdefense, economic security, strategically key infrastructure and securing energy resources, according to the ministry.

The U.S. has been stepping up its bilateral and trilateral defense cooperation with Japan and the Philippines in recent years to counter China's territorial claims and military buildup in the East and South China seas, as well as around Taiwan.

Kishida and Biden are scheduled to meet bilaterally the day before the three-way summit. Kishida will visit the U.S. as a state guest, marking the first such visit by a Japanese leader since then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip in 2015.