Japan, the United States and the Philippines will hold their first trilateral maritime exercise off the Southeast Asian country's coast, Philippine officials said Monday, a move that will showcase their interoperability near the South China Sea, where Beijing is making assertive territorial claims.

The weeklong drill from Thursday will include maritime law enforcement training and search-and-rescue. The United States and key ally Japan have stepped up cooperation to assist Southeast Asian nations in enhancing their coast guard capabilities.

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton and Japan Coast Guard ship Akitsushima are set to join the training involving around 400 coast guards from the three countries.

The Philippine Coast Guard will deploy four of its vessels, two of which are multi-role response vessels that Manila acquired from Tokyo as part of a project for improving maritime safety capabilities.

"The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard have been assisting us in our human resource development program, particularly in law enforcement training. This is a good opportunity to thank and show them what our personnel learned from their programs," one of the Philippine Coast Guard officials said in a press release.

The exercise would also "improve maritime cooperation and understanding" among the three countries, the official added.

Participating coast guard personnel will demonstrate a scenario involving a suspected vessel involved in piracy. The joint law enforcement team from the three coast guards will conduct a boarding inspection followed by a search and rescue operation.

The South China Sea is an important trade route where China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims.

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