U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that China’s increasingly assertive actions across the region make it more critical than ever for four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) to cooperate to protect their partners and their people from Chinese “exploitation, corruption, and coercion.”
Pompeo attended the Quad ministerial meeting during his visit to Tokyo, Japan, from Oct. 4 to 6. In his remarks at the meeting, he said, “It is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.”
“We’ve seen it in the south, in the East China Sea, the Mekong, the Himalayas, the Taiwan Straits. These are just a few examples,” he added. Also, the Chinese regime’s coverup of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak worsened the crisis caused by the pandemic in the Indo-Pacific region.
Therefore, the diverse nations of the region need new determination to protect their freedoms and sovereignty, Pompeo said.
“Weakness provokes bullies, that is appeasement rewards those who act in ways that are coercive and use military might as opposed to diplomatic tools to resolve conflict,” Pompeo said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK.
“The answer to that is to be forceful in our response, … and to work with like-minded nations all across the world to oppose those who want to use military power or coercion,” Pompeo added.
“America stands with each of you as we work to achieve victory over this horrible pandemic and rebuild our economies together,” Pompeo told Quad meeting participants.
“I’m looking forward to our meetings and to more concrete steps with the Quad going forward. When we exchange ideas openly and work together, good things follow,” Pompeo concluded.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that Australia believes that the region should be “governed by rules, not power” and disputes should be “resolved according to international law” with respect to individual rights.
Australia also cooperates with other regional organizations in the Indo-Pacific such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nation and the Pacific Islands Forum, Payne said.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that India remains “committed to upholding the rules-based international order underpinned by the rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation in international seas, and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said after the talks the nations had confirmed they would advance with practical talks on infrastructure, cybersecurity, and other areas.
Japan, meanwhile, is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea. Japan also considers China’s growing military activity to be a security threat. Japan’s annual defense 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.
Earlier Tuesday, new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in 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.
Suga took office on Sept. 16, vowing to carry on predecessor Shinzo Abe’s security and diplomatic stance. Abe was a key driving force behind promoting the Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative (FOIP), which Suga called “a vision of peace and prosperity of this region” and pledged to pursue.
Suga, who had been chief Cabinet secretary under Abe, told Japanese media Monday that he will pursue diplomacy based on the Japan-U.S. alliance as a cornerstone and “strategically promote the FOIP,” while establishing stable relations with neighbors including China and Russia.
Japan sees the FOIP as crucial for assuring access to sea lanes all the way to the Middle East, a key source of oil for the resource-poor island nation.
Part of the problem for Washington’s Asian allies is their dependence on China for trade. China was the top destination for Australian exports in 2019, the No. 2 destination for Japanese exports, and the No. 3 destination for Indian exports, according to IMF direction of trade statistics compiled by Refinitiv.
Beijing has denied allegations of covering up the pandemic, denies human rights violations in its handling of Hong Kong and minority Muslims in Xinjiang, and accuses Western nations of meddling in its internal affairs.
The Quad consists of Japan, the United States, India, and Australia and is a forum for government officials to discuss regional security issues. The Quad was originally established in 2007 at the initiative of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the support of then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, but it fell apart in 2008.
The Quad was reestablished in 2017 after Abe retook the office amid growing concerns due to Chinese regime coercive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a report by Patrick Gerard Buchan, a director and fellow at the Center for the Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Benjamin Rimland, a research associate with CSIS.
China officially protested the initial establishment of the Quad in 2007 and its revival in 2017 and views the group as a threat to its interests, Buchan and Rimland wrote for Washington-based CSIS.
“Quad membership is driven by shared interests, not binding obligations,” Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell told the press at a briefing on Oct. 2.
“The Quad seeks to establish, promote, and secure Indo-Pacific principles, especially as [People Republic of China] (PRC) tactics, aggression, and coercion increase in the region,” Stilwell said. The Quad members focus on issues such as “maritime security, cyber and critical technology, infrastructure, counterterrorism, and the Mekong regional cooperation,” he added.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.