This photo taken on June 18, 2016 and released June 19, 2016 by the US Navy shows a flight formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in the Philippine Sea. (AFP photo)

The US military has welcomed Japan’s interest in boosting its maritime activities in the disputed South China Sea.  
The US Navy said in a statement on Thursday it seeks to enhance cooperative efforts with Japan to contribute to the region’s security.
"The United States welcomes Japan's interest in expanding its maritime activities in the South China Sea. We continue to explore ways to enhance US-Japan cooperative efforts to contribute to the security and stability of the region," the US Navy said.
This comes after Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said Thursday that Tokyo will step up its activity in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the US and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies.
Inada also said Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea, will help build the capacity of coastal states in the South China Sea.
Japan has already expressed readiness to provide Vietnam and the Philippines, which have claims over the South China Sea, with new patrol ships and surveillance aircraft.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite partial counterclaims by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. China is also locked in disputes with Japan and South Korea over the East China Sea.
Across Southeast Asia, concerns about China and its growing military have created an opportunity for the US to improve relationships.
China has repeatedly criticized US military presence in the region and suspects the military drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing.