Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Sailors from four countries met in the waters off Guam Wednesday to start the second iteration of the U.S.-led Pacific Vanguard training exercise, meant to practice tactical cooperation at sea.
According to figures released by the Navy, about 1,500 soldiers total -- coming from Australia, Canada and South Korea, as well as the United States -- will participate in the exercise, which comes six months after the first iteration in May.
Notably absent is Japan, which participated in the May exercise, officials said, as a condition of mediation issued by the United States.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has been in Asia since last week, in part to help mend relations between South Korea and Japan, which have grown tense in recent months.
Navy officials said the purpose of the exercise is to practice tactical cooperation at sea and work on a range of skill sets including live-fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare and replenishment at sea.
"Building on the success of the previous exercise, Pacific Vanguard continues to serve as an opportunity for like-minded maritime nations to come together based on their shared values and common interests," Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said in a Navy press release. "Our forces will use the next few days to exercise and improve our multilateral ability to adapt to ever changing regional challenges."
Officials haven't said how long they expect this iteration of the Pacific Vanguard to last, but the May exercise lasted a week.