Japan and France plan to conduct a joint maritime exercise in February in a show of strength against China's ambition to make the South China Sea its stronghold, Japanese government sources said.

An agreement is expected at a "two plus two” meeting of the Japanese and French foreign and defense ministers on Jan. 26 in Tokyo.

The exercise between Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the French military would involve the French warship Vendemiaire, which is in charge of patrolling overseas territories, the sources said.

With China’s maritime advance in mind, the two nations plan to strengthen cooperation and enhance security in the Pacific region.

The sources emphasized that France is considered a “Pacific nation,” given that it controls territories in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

Japan is aiming to secure France's support for its diplomatic strategy that seeks to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

The two nations are expected to issue a joint statement at the meeting covering the importance of freedom of navigation and other issues, the sources said.

They also are seeking to reach a broad agreement on an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) for the exchange of supplies such as ammunition between the SDF and the French military.

Additionally, they are likely to confirm plans to begin joint research on mine detection technology.

(This article was written by Hiroyoshi Itabashi and Ryo Aibara.)