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Japan, U.S., India to work together on strategic port development

The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and India
agreed Monday in New York to work together to develop strategically
important ports and other infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region,
apparently seeking to balance China's bid to strengthen its regional
influence.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, U.S. Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj agreed
to work to spread and establish the rule of law and the freedom of
navigation and overflight in the region, Japanese Foreign Ministry
officials said.

They affirmed that they will strengthen connectivity in the
region through investment in infrastructure and work together to
assist strategically important coastal nations in the region with
maritime capacity-building, centering on key ports.

"Now is the time to further raise the cooperation between Japan,
the United States and India to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific
region, which supports more than half the world's population and is
at the core of the world's vitality," Japanese officials quoted Kono
as saying in the meeting.

The affirmation is apparently aimed at China's assertive
territorial claims in the East and South China seas, as well as its
drive to develop strategically important ports along the Indian Ocean
in a way that would increase its regional influence.

Kono mentioned the port of Gwadar in Pakistan as an example of
such a key port, and the three discussed specific countries that
could be potential destinations for capacity-building assistance, the
Japanese officials said without elaborating further.

Gwadar lies at the end of the nearly 3,000-kilometer
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor linking it to western China's
Xinjiang province. China and Pakistan agreed in April 2015 to launch
the corridor with about $50 billion in Chinese investment.

The ministers also agreed to boost trilateral maritime security
cooperation and to strengthen cooperation on maritime issues with the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the officials said.

They welcomed Japan's participation as a full member in July in
the annual Malabar maritime exercises conducted by the Indian and
U.S. navies, and agreed to further deepen such trilateral security
cooperation in the Indian Ocean.

In their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly,
the first such three-way gathering since Kono and Tillerson took up
their posts earlier this year, the ministers also agreed to jointly
call on other countries to fully and rapidly enforce U.N. sanctions
on North Korea.

These sanctions include the most recent U.N. Security Council
resolution that for the first time caps oil supply to the country,
adopted in response to North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear
test conducted Sept. 3.

The ministers also confirmed the importance of China's role in
dealing with North Korea, the officials said.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, Tillerson said the
Security Council resolutions "speak for themselves" about the
international community's "unanimous view" that North Korea needs to
"correct its situation."

Kono also held talks with Australian Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop after the trilateral meeting. (Sept. 18)