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Japan, Indian leaders agree to step up defense cooperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe pose for a photo prior to a bilateral meeting ahead of the G-20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 27, 2019. (Kiyoshi Ota/Pool Photo via AP)

OSAKA (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that Japan's ties with India are blessed with the "greatest potential for development of any bilateral relationship in the world" and agreed with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to enhance defense cooperation.

"Toward the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific, I'd like to...advance concrete cooperation on connectivity through quality infrastructure as well as defense and security," Abe was quoted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry as telling Modi as they met on the fringes of a Group of 20 summit in Osaka, with China's growing influence in the region apparently in mind.

Modi agreed to pursue cooperation in the fields of security, disaster risk reduction, digital affairs and cooperation in other countries, according to the ministry.

With Modi having traveled to Japan in October for annual summit talks, Abe said it is now his turn to go to India and that he is looking forward to the trip.

The Japanese prime minister also said the two countries should hold "two-plus-two" foreign and defense ministerial talks, which they agreed to institute in October, as soon as possible.

Japan and India have already held security talks at the vice ministerial level, but have decided to upgrade the format.

Congratulating Modi on his party's victory in a general election in May, Abe expressed his desire to work with him "hand in hand" and elevate the Japan-India relationship "to greater heights," according to the ministry.

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