Japan scrambles jets as talk of Taiwan, Russia looms over Quad summit
Japan sent military jets aloft after Russian and Chinese warplanes neared its airspace, with Tokyo conveying “grave concerns” about what it saw as a provocation timed to coincide with the Quad summit in late May 2022.
The issues of Taiwan and Russia loomed over the meeting in Tokyo of leaders of the Quad grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, who stressed their determination to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific in the face of an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC). (Pictured: From left, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo in May 2022.)
As the leaders met, Russian and Chinese warplanes conducted a 13-hour joint patrol, which Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called a likely provocation by Beijing and Moscow.
“We believe the fact that this action was taken during the Quad summit makes it more provocative than in the past,” Kishi said.
South Korea also scrambled fighters, saying at least four Chinese and four Russian warplanes entered its air defense identification zone.
The patrol took place a day after U.S. President Joe Biden angered the PRC by saying the U.S. would be willing to use force to defend the democratic island of Taiwan. Biden later said his comment reflected no change to the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan, which the PRC claims as its territory.
The joint patrol, the first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, was part of an annual military exercise, the PRC’s defense ministry said.
The Quad leaders released a statement saying they “discussed their respective responses to the conflict in Ukraine and the ongoing tragic humanitarian crisis.”
In an apparent concession to India, which has close ties with Russia, the words “Russia” or “Russian” did not appear in the statement. India has not condemned Russia’s invasion or imposed sanctions.
Following the Quad summit, Kishida said the leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, shared their concerns about Ukraine and all four agreed on the importance of the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Speaking to reporters, President Biden condemned Russia’s invasion, saying it had global ramifications. That was echoed by Kishida, who said the invasion “shakes the foundation of international order” and was a direct challenge to the United Nations’ principles.
“We should not allow similar things to happen in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
President Biden’s comment on Taiwan, which was not on the summit agenda, was the focus of much attention.
While Washington is required by law to provide self-ruled Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed the policy of strategic ambiguity on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
Albanese, who attended the summit just days after his election as Australia’s leader, asked his Quad counterparts to take leading roles on combating climate change. “The region is looking to us to work with them and to lead by example,” he said.
IMAGE CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES