Japan, US, Philippines and Canada conduct joint drills in South China Sea

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force says it has conducted joint exercises with the United States, the Philippines and Canada in the South China Sea.

The drills on Sunday involved a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, a US Navy destroyer, a patrol ship from the Philippine navy, and a Royal Canadian Navy frigate.

Officials say this was the first time the four countries have conducted what they call "Maritime Cooperative Activity" together. The participating vessels conducted a range of activities to test their coordination, including communication and navigation training.

In April, Japan's MSDF took part in Maritime Cooperative Activity conducted in the South China Sea with the navies of the US, the Philippines and Australia.

MSDF officials said Japan will strengthen cooperation with its allies and partners and contribute to maintaining regional peace, stability and maritime order.

This comes at a time when China has stepped up its activities in the waters, where Philippine ships were repeatedly obstructed by Chinese patrol vessels.