(Tokyo) Leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday, warned against changing “the status quo by force” given China’s growing military influence in the Asia-Pacific region region is of concern.
Posted at 11:43 p.m
At the end of their summit in the Japanese capital, the four countries united in the informal alliance of the “Quad” seemed to draw a parallel between Beijing’s territorial ambitions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which “shakes the principles underlying the international order.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned at a press conference that “any violent change in the status quo will not be tolerated anywhere”.
As China strengthens its military capabilities and ramps up drills and maneuvers near disputed territories, including Taiwan, US President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States stands ready to deploy its military assets in the event of an autonomous invasion of that territory.
However, he clarified on Tuesday that “strategic ambiguity,” an American doctrine that consists of diplomatically recognizing only mainland China while pledging to give Taiwan the military means to defend itself in the event of an invasion, remains unchanged.
“I would like to remind the American side that no power in the world, including the United States, can prevent the Chinese people from achieving full national unification,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
If Washington “stays on the wrong track, there will be irreparable consequences not only for China-US relations, but also unbearable costs for the United States,” he added.
China never mentioned but omnipresent
Members of the Quad regularly worry about military maneuvers and Chinese attempts to “nibble” Pacific islands.
In their statement on Tuesday, Mr Biden and Kishida, along with Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and India’s Narendra Modi, specifically cited the “militarization” of contested areas, “the dangerous deployment of coastguard vessels and naval militias, and efforts to stop activities aimed at exploiting offshore resources disrupting other countries,” activities accused of China in the region.
They also unveiled a marine surveillance program that aims to “promote stability and prosperity in our seas and oceans.”
However, their remarks avoided any explicit mention of China or Russia, while the Quad’s unity is complicated by disagreements with India, the only member that has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has even increased its imports of Russian oil despite criticism.
But Mr. Biden had left little doubt about the Quad’s goals, estimating a few hours earlier that that summit was that of “democracies versus autocracies.”
The US strategy aims for an Asia-Pacific region that is “free, open, connected, secure and resilient.” Russia’s attack on Ukraine only underscores the importance of these goals, the fundamental principles of the international order,” he added.
Investing in Asia Pacific
Countries in the region are also concerned about Beijing’s efforts to forge alliances with Pacific nations. After a security deal signed with the Solomon Islands last month, China may want to extend it to others: Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati, according to some media outlets.
The members of the Quad also announced on Tuesday that they intend to invest at least 50 billion dollars (around 47 billion euros) in infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years.
“We commit to working closely with our partners and the region to stimulate public and private investment,” the four leaders said in their joint statement.
After the quad, Joe Biden departed for Washington on Tuesday, ending his Asia tour, which had begun with a three-day stay in South Korea and which loomed the possibility that the unpredictable North Korea would launch a new missile or progress to a nuclear test.
That fear has not materialized so far, but Washington has said it is “prepared” for that eventuality as talks have escalated since the collapse of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US President Donald Trump in 2019 have come to a standstill.
What is the Quad Alliance?
The “Quad” group, which brings together the United States, India, Australia and Japan, was formally established in 2007 with the primary goal of countering China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Born after the 2004 tsunami
The four countries meet for the first time since the January 26, 2004 earthquake followed by a tsunami in Indonesia before forming the Quadrilateral Dialogue on Security three years later. The Quad’s first major act is a joint naval exercise as part of the Malabar Maneuvers between the United States and India. But the following year, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd resigned from the alliance because he did not want to appear in a group seen as openly challenging China, which had become a key economic partner for the United States.
A decade later, violent clashes on the China-India border are urging the restoration of the dormant alliance with greater commitment from Canberra. The four countries are taking part in the 2020 Malabar exercises, making the group look increasingly like a military alliance.
After a Trump administration content to back the Quad, his successor, Joe Biden, is taking it a step further by organizing the first virtual summit of the group’s leaders in March 2021, before turning it into an in-person one last September Meeting in Washington is coming. In September 2021, the four heads of state and government will meet in Washington, which will help cement this informal alliance a little more. This formation reflects Washington’s new strategy of building coalitions of countries and institutions based on common needs, rather than traditional military alliances.
For the United States, Australia and Japan, the quad is a tool to woo India, traditionally tied to its non-aligned status in superpower struggles. Deadly fighting on the border with China in 2019 may have changed that. India is “the crucial, critical member of the quad,” said Kurt Campbell, the Asia-Pacific White House national security officer in November. In its strategic plan for the region, the United States switched from the designation “Asia-Pacific” to “Indo-Pacific”.
Vaccines and Climate Change
The four countries assure that the quad is more than a question of defense. Quad members want to develop “soft power” actions that, coming from democratic countries, would contrast with authoritarian China. COVID-19 has given the band a new purpose. As part of the Quad, the four countries have pledged to distribute 1.3 billion doses of vaccine. Other topics will be addressed: the so-called clean maritime transport, the fight against global warming and the construction of a safer computer and internet infrastructure.