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12/05/2011 04:42 pm ET | Updated Feb 04, 2012

U.S., India, Japan Meeting To Be Held In Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States, India and
Japan will hold their first trilateral meeting this month as
Washington pushes ahead with its ``pivot'' toward Asia, where
China's growing power has raised concern.

The State Department said the three countries would meet in
Washington on Dec. 19, represented by senior diplomats.

``This meeting is going to be an opportunity to hold
comprehensive discussion on a range of Asia-Pacific regional
issues,'' State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news
briefing.

``As the three leading Pacific democracies, we look forward
to productive exchanges with India and Japan.''

The meeting is the latest sign of the Obama
administration's drive to push back against Chinese influence
in the Asia-Pacific region and strengthen existing alliances.

President Barack Obama recently returned from an Asian tour
that stressed U.S. interests in the region. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton last week visited Myanmar, offering the
prospect of improved ties with a resource-rich country that
analysts said had been seen as an economic and political
satellite of Beijing.

The United States has also sought to consolidate relations
with other regional powers, including Australia and Indonesia,
in what U.S. officials described as a policy ``pivot'' toward
Asia as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.

Political analysts said that while the three countries
share a range of interests including on trade and nuclear
issues, the primary focus of this month's meeting was likely to
be China.

``China is the big strategic driver of the interest of all
three sides but this builds on trends that we've seen for some
time now,'' said Richard Fontaine, a senior adviser at the
Center for a New American Security think-tank.

India and Japan both have their own concerns about China,
which is leveraging its economic strength to become more
assertive and beef up its military, including eventually
developing its own aircraft carrier.

Those concerns have been particularly pronounced in the
South China Sea, where the United States has urged China not to
allow competing territorial claims to jeopardize the security
of waterways essential to Asian trade.

U.S. officials have emphasized that their aim is not to
threaten China, but Beijing has reacted nervously and warned
Washington not to take steps which could fan Cold War-style
antagonism.

The United States already has a strong security
relationship with Japan, and has been working to develop
similar ties with India, including forming a possible three-way
security pact with New Delhi and Canberra.

Fontaine said the three-way meeting could fan fears of
''encirclement'' in Beijing, which is embarking on a delicate
period of political transition as Chinese President Hu Jintao
prepares to hand off power to Vice President Xi Jinping in
early 2013.

``From the Chinese standpoint they would see this as not
particularly worrisome in and of itself, but as the latest
piece of a developing pattern of behavior in the Indo-Pacific
region,'' Fontaine said.
(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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