Sushma Swaraj holds trilateral talks with US, Japan counterparts

NEW YORK: Foreign ministers of India, Japan and the US on Monday emphasised on the need for ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes, as they held a trilateral meeting in the backdrop of Doklam crisis and assertive Chinese behaviour. On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly here, the three top diplomats - external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono - also exchanged views on maritime security, connectivity and proliferation issues. "The ministers emphasised the need for ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. "On connectivity initiatives, the importance of basing them on universally recognised international norms, prudent financing and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity was underlined," Kumar said in a statement.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea. However, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims. India and China last month ended a 73-day standoff in Doklam area of the Sikkim sector that was triggered by China's move to build a road in the border area. Swaraj also deplored North Korea's recent actions and stated that its proliferation linkages must be explored and those involved be held accountable, Kumar said. Tensions have dramatically risen on the Korean peninsula after North Korea early this month conducted its biggest nuclear test, which its state-run KCNA news agency described it as a hydrogen bomb. The three ministers directed their senior officials to explore practical steps to enhance cooperation, he said at the conclusion of the meeting. Swaraj arrived in New York early on Monday to attend the 72nd annual session of the UN General Assembly. She is scheduled to address the United Nations on September 23.

She is scheduled to have a series of other meetings on Monday including that with Tunisian foreign minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics, and her Bolivian counterpart Fernando Huanacuni Mamani.

In a day jam-packed with consecutive meetings, Swaraj will also participate in a high-level meeting on UN reforms, hosted and chaired by US President Donald Trump. India is among the 120 countries which have supported the reform efforts of the UN Secretary General.