US, Australia, India, Japan discuss China’s growing power
Tokyo: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that China’s increasingly assertive actions across the region make it more critical then ever for the four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad to cooperate to protect their partners and their people from Chinese “exploitation, corruption and coercion.”
Pompeo made the remark at a meeting in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of Japan, India and Australia, who together make up the Quad. The talks were the group’s first in-person since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Pompeo accused China of covering up the pandemic and worsening it, while threatening freedom, democracy and diversity in the region with its increasingly assertive actions.
“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. “We see in the East and South China Seas. The Mekong, the Himalayas, the Taiwan Strait. These are just a few examples.”
The talks come less than a month before the US presidential election and amid tensions between the Washington and Beijing over the virus, trade, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights. They follow a recent flareup in tensions between China and India over their disputed Himalayan border, while relations between Australia and China have also deteriorated in recent months.
Japan, meanwhile, is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.
Japan also considers China’s growing military activity to be a security threat. Japan’s annual defence policy paper in July accused China of unilaterally changing the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized manmade islands and is assertively pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways.
China has denied allegations of covering up the pandemic, saying it acted quickly to reveal the information to the WHO and the world. On Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, it accuses Western countries of meddling in the country’s internal affairs and says there’s no instance of human rights issues. Further, it maintains that the US is the biggest impediment to peace in the South China Sea.
Earlier Tuesday, Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a meeting with the Quad diplomats that their “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” security and economic initiative is more important than ever amid challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
Suga took office on September 16, vowing to carry on predecessor Shinzo Abe’s hawkish security and diplomatic stance. Abe was a key driving force behind promoting the FOIP initiative, which Suga called “a vision of peace and prosperity of this region” and pledged to pursue.
Japan and the US have been pushing the FOIP as a way to bring together “like-minded” countries that share concerns about China’s growing assertiveness and influence.
Pompeo, as well as Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Indian Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, and their Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, joined Suga before their own meeting.