Japan's defense minister says its forces will increase engagement in the South China Sea through training cruises with the U.S. Navy and multilateral exercises with regional navies.

Newly appointed Defense Minister Tomomi Inada says Japan will also help build the capacity of coastal nations. She was speaking ahead her first meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter Thursday in Washington.

Japan, a close U.S. ally, is not among the countries claiming territory in the disputed South China Sea but shares U.S. concern about China's assertive behavior there.

Japan has a separate territorial dispute with China over unoccupied islands they both claim farther north in the East China Sea.

Inada says she is open to constructive dialogue with China on preventing collisions between their forces at sea and in the air.