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India, Japan agree to step up military cooperation

India, Japan agree to step up military cooperation
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) have strengthened defense ties since 2015. The relationship has grown since U.S. President Donald Trump (L) assumed office. File Photo by  Shealah Craighead/White House | License Photo

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- India and Japan have agreed to strengthen military cooperation in a year defined by tensions at India's disputed Himalayan border.

Indian Defense Secretary Ajay Kumar and Japanese Ambassador Suzuki Satoshi signed the agreement on Thursday that would allow for the "reciprocal provision of supplies and services," the Times of India reported Friday.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan's Shinzo Abe agreed on the pact in October 2018 in order to further enhance defense cooperation and "contribute to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region."

The two countries, along with the United States and Australia, form a "Quad" grouping that could serve as a check on China. In June, a clash along the disputed Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers in Galway Valley. China has declined to disclose its casualty numbers.

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Abe, who is to soon leave office, had said in his message to Modi the "strong partnership" between the two countries will play an important role in the post-coronavirus world, according to the Indian government on Thursday.

Japan and India have pushed for closer military ties under Abe and Modi. Tokyo has also been involved in Exercise Malabar, a trilateral naval exercise with the United States, since 2015.

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Abe, who has said he is resigning for health reasons, has supported revising Japan's constitution. On Friday, he said he would propose a security strategy for a new missile defense system with missile strike capability against enemy bases, the Sankei Shimbun reported Friday.

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Abe had held a meeting of his national security council on Friday, during which North Korea's possession of ballistic missiles and its capability to miniaturize nuclear warheads were discussed with advisers.

"It is necessary to increase deterrence and further reduce the likelihood of attack by ballistic missiles," Abe said after the meeting.

Abe also said Tokyo will propose a security plan by the end of the year.

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