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Japanese, Indian defense chiefs meet to discuss military cooperation

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, second from left, and his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, right, hold talks in New Delhi, on Aug. 20, 2018. (Kyodo)

NEW DELHI (Kyodo) -- Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met Monday with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi to discuss deeper military cooperation and China's growing influence in South Asia.

The countries' defense chiefs held talks for the first time since last September, with China promoting its "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure initiative to connect countries along the ancient Silk Road.

Japan is striving to bolster cooperation with Asian and African countries based on its "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy," a policy promoted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and endorsed by the United States in an apparent bid to counter China's maritime influence in the region.

Arriving in India on Sunday, Onodera paid a courtesy call on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before meeting with Sitharaman and will also visit Sri Lanka on Tuesday to hold talks with President Maithripala Sirisena, who doubles as defense minister.

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