The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force conducted joint exercises with the Vietnamese navy for three days through Thursday in the Southeast Asian country and nearby waters. An MSDF team was dispatched to Danang, central Vietnam, along with two P-3C patrol aircraft for the drills aimed at reinforcing defence cooperation between the two countries and keeping a check on China amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Vietnam, one of several states involved in disputes over reefs and islands in the waters, are at odds with China over claims to the Paracel and Spratly island groups. Just this week, China’s deployment of an advanced surface-to-air missile system on one of the Paracel Islands came to light. Last November, Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani and his Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh agreed during talks in Hanoi that an MSDF vessel will make a port call at Cam Ranh Bay, a strategic Vietnamese naval base in the South China Sea. They also agreed to conduct joint defence drills to train for humanitarian support and disaster relief activities with an eye on the situation in the South China Sea. Wednesday’s map exercise at a Vietnamese navy facility in Danang was conducted based on a scenario that the P-3C planes and Vietnam’s naval vessels would rescue a civilian ship in distress. The MSDF’s P-3C aircraft previously visited Vietnam in May last year.