Quad maritime drills underway

The US Defense Department says joint exercises have begun by the US, Indian and Australian navies and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force. The drills are believed to be aimed at confirming their security cooperation against China's military build-up.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that the countries "are conducting multilateral training as part of Exercise Malabar 2021 with a focus on naval cooperation and interoperability."

Kirby said the United States looks forward "to further strengthening the bonds between these nations."

The exercises in waters off India follow the first ever in-person summit of the four countries ― called the Quad alliance ― in Washington last month.

At the September meeting the leaders did not openly stress the significance of security cooperation, apparently in view of India's desire to avoid provoking China.

Observers say the US government wants the exercises to highlight the security ties among the Quad members as part of its effort to counter China's rapid military buildup.