It is clear the group was formed in response to an increasingly powerful China. But nothing will come of it if it raises regional tensions and sows discord. It must be made into a framework that contributes to the stability of the global order.
The first summit meeting between Japan, America, Australia and India’s heads of state was held online and announced a strengthening of relations to ensure “a free and open Indo-Pacific” with a united voice. In the meeting, the leaders confirmed their intention to hold an in-person summit this year to discuss vaccine supply, climate change measures, cooperation in maritime security and more.
This framework, called the Quad, was proposed during the first term of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Each country has had a different trajectory in relation to China, but in recent years discussions have reached the level of bureau chiefs and foreign ministers.
This summit was convened at the request of U.S. President Joe Biden, who called China his “most serious competitor.” It could be considered the first step of the Biden administration’s diplomacy efforts with China, followed by a “two plus two” meeting with Japan’s foreign and defense ministers, a meeting with China’s top diplomats and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit to America.
We welcome America’s revision of former president Donald Trump’s unilateralism and turn toward diplomacy that values contributions to Asia and alliance relationships. That being said, as the net around China appears to strengthen and oppositional steps are taken, the confrontation will escalate.
Some in China warn that the Quad is becoming an Indo-Pacific version of NATO. We should make clear that it is a cooperative relationship and draw the line at military matters.
What’s more, the four countries’ posture toward China is not unified. India, in particular, has a tradition of non-alliance and makes an effort to balance against China. This summit addressed issues on a global scale, like the response to COVID-19, out of consideration to India. It would be misguided to strengthen our confrontational attitude to China only to fall out of step.
We value dialogue and aim for coexistence on the basis of cooperation while suppressing Chinese activities that challenge the prevailing order, like its forceful maritime advances into the South and East China Seas. We request stubborn diplomatic efforts to involve China in the “free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law” proclaimed by the summit’s joint statement.
The four countries’ positions on the common values that form the basis for their coordination, like human rights and the rule of law, are also in dispute. For instance, India is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and develops and possesses nuclear weapons, and its human rights situation is viewed harshly by the international community. If we don’t close our eyes to our own problems and contribute to the spread of universal values, this framework will go beyond opposing China and hold meaning for supporting the global order.
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