BUENOS AIRES - The leaders of the United States, Japan and India met jointly Friday for the first time and called for open navigation in Asia, a show of unity with China clearly in mind.
The three right-leaning leaders — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — met on the sidelines of the summit of the G20 economic powers in Buenos Aires.
With the meeting lasting only around 15 minutes, it was likely more about symbolism than planning strategy, but it comes as all three share concerns on China’s rising clout.
Japan and India both have long-standing territorial feuds with their neighbor, while Trump has been pressing China hard on trade and reiterating concerns over Beijing’s assertive posture in the dispute-ridden South China Sea.
“Japan, the U.S. and India share fundamental values and strategic interests,” Abe said.
“By having three of us working together, we’ll bring more prosperity and more stability in the region, as well as globally,” he said.
Modi noted that JAI — an acronym of Japan, America and India — is Hindi for “long live.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the summit “reaffirmed the importance of the free and open Indo-Pacific vision for global stability and prosperity, and pledged to deepen trilateral cooperation.”
The Trump administration has increasingly spoken of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” a policy long favored by Abe as he insists that all of Asia remain open to navigation and trade.
But Modi and Abe also both met separately with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump is set to meet Xi on Saturday for talks focused on trade disputes.
India, despite decades of territorial disputes with China, has historically shied away from joining alliances with major powers.
And tensions have also been easing between Japan and China, with Abe in October paying the first official visit in seven years by a Japanese leader to Beijing.