Japan, Australia, India discuss strategic ties, regional security

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan and Australia on Wednesday discussed what Tokyo termed their special, strategic partnership, agreeing to broaden security measures and deepen cooperation in the face of “changing” regional conditions.

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The meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Australian counterpart Marise Payne took place a day after four-way talks between the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, Australia and India in which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for deeper cooperation with Asian allies as a bulwark against China’s growing regional influence.

Pompeo’s visit, the first to Japan in more than a year, coincided with worsening tensions with China and saw him call for a united front against Beijing, a sensitive subject for Washington’s allies which are reliant on China for trade.

China has warned about “exclusive cliques” that target third parties but statements about Wednesday’s discussions did not mention China by name.

Motegi told Payne at the start of their meeting on Wednesday: “Our two nations have a special strategic partnership, and the possibilities for deepening cooperation are great”. He did not elaborate.

But in their discussions the two agreed to broaden cooperation in the security sphere in response to “new issues”, the Foreign Ministry said later in a statement, although no further details were given.

They also agreed to work towards a visit to Japan by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at “an appropriate time.”

Motegi then met with Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and said Tokyo will continue to emphasise its strategic partnership with India under the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office last month.

Indian media had speculated that India will invite Australia to participate in the annual Malabar naval exercises with Japan and the United States.

Delhi has hesitated on making the exercises bigger because China in the past has criticized such proposed multilateral drills as an anti-China grouping driven by the U.S.

Though the Foreign Ministry said Motegi and Jaishankar agreed to stay in close contact, no mention was made of the exercises.

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Michael Perry