Australia, India, Japan, U.S. discuss PRC aggression
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in early October 2020 that the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) increasingly assertive actions across the region make it more critical than ever for the four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad to cooperate to counter Chinese “exploitation, corruption and coercion.”
Pompeo made the remark at a meeting in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of the other Quad nations: Australia, India and Japan. It was the group’s first in-person meeting since the coronavirus outbreak began. (Pictured: From left, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attend four-nation talks in Tokyo in October 2020.)
Pompeo accused the PRC of covering up and worsening the pandemic, and threatening freedom, democracy and diversity.
“It is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption and coercion,” Pompeo said, citing examples of Chinese aggression in the East and South China seas, the Mekong region, the Himalayas and the Taiwan Strait.
The talks came amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus, trade, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights. They follow a flareup in tensions between the PRC and India over their disputed Himalayan border, while relations between Australia and the PRC have also deteriorated in recent months.
Japan, meanwhile, is concerned about the PRC’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea. Japan also considers the PRC’s growing military activity to be a security threat. Japan’s annual defense policy paper in July 2020 accused the PRC of unilaterally changing the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized artificial islands and is assertively pressing its claim to virtually all key fisheries and waterways.
The PRC has denied the allegations relating to COVID-19, the South China Sea and human rights violations, and has accused other nations of meddling in its affairs.
Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, told the Quad diplomats that their Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) security and economic initiative is more important than ever.
The international community faces multiple challenges as it tries to resolve the pandemic, and “this is exactly why right now it is time that we should further deepen coordination with as many countries as possible that share our vision,” Suga said.
Japan and the U.S. see the FOIP as a way to bring together countries that share concerns about the PRC’s assertiveness and influence.
Suga, who took office in September 2020, said he would promote the FOIP during an upcoming visit to Southeast Asia. Japan considers the policy crucial for ensuring access to sea lanes all the way to the Middle East, a key source of oil for the resource-poor island nation.