• Kyodo

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Amid China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, the defense ministers of Japan and India agreed Friday to boost their trilateral security cooperation with the United States.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters “it is very significant” for Japan, India and the United States, who “share the same values,” to strengthen cooperation to ensure the security of the vast Pacific and Indian oceans.

To this end, Nakatani proposed that the three countries start organizing regular high-level meetings, a Japanese official said.

Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said he will reply to the proposal after considering it, according to the official.

The two ministers held talks in Singapore just before the opening of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security forum.

This year, the Maritime Self-Defense Force will join the navies of the United States and India in the annual Malabar naval exercise.

India and the United States have been conducting the drills since 1992.

Japan, which has taken part in the exercise four times in the past, became a permanent participant following an agreement between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, in December.

Nakatani said the 2016 Malabar exercises will be carried out for a week from Friday in waters around Okinawa, close to the Japan-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands.

On Friday, Nakatani also held talks separately with his Canadian and Singaporean counterparts, Harjit Sajjan and Ng Eng Hen, during which he said that tensions in the South China Sea should be settled peacefully in line with international law.

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