Just how special this year’s ‘Quad’ meeting of India, the United States, Australia, and Japan went can be summed up by a crafty ‘Happy Birthday’ cake for the latter’s foreign minister that will be cut on Wednesday.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi took to Twitter to share the image of his birthday cake along with other images of the Quad meeting held in Tokyo on Tuesday. He said the meeting, that lasted for three hours, discussed the concrete promotion of the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ and the regional situation including North Korea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea and agreed to make such meetings regular.
“The Japan-US-Australia-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held for about 3 hours. We discussed the concrete promotion of the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ and the regional situation including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and agreed to make this meeting regular. At the dinner party tomorrow, I’ll celebrate my birthday by cutting a cake,” a roughly translated Japanese statement read.
— 茂木敏充 (@moteging) October 6, 2020
In a Facebook post, the foreign minister said the leaders exchanged opinions on how to deal with the issues arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic and continue to cooperate on matters such as the creation of new international rules on fields ranging from health and hygiene to the global digital economy.
“In addition, we will expand cooperation with more countries toward the realization of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, as well as high-quality infrastructure, maritime security, anti-terrorism, cybersecurity, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, education, etc. We agreed to further promote practical cooperation in various fields, including human resource development,” Toshimitsu Motegi said.
Eyeing China, Quad discuss new strategic gameplan
China, Chinese expansionism, coronavirus, and Indo-Pacific were the four keywords that buzzed around in Tuesday’s path-breaking ‘Quad’ summit. Donning masks and bumping elbows, the foreign ministers of India, Japan, the United States, and Australia presented a united front to rebalance China in the region and establish a new strategic gameplan for a post-Coronavirus world.
In his remarks, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar highlighted the fact that these leaders are meeting in Tokyo in person despite a global pandemic is a “testimony to the importance that these consultations have gained”. “Our world, you will all agree, is significantly different today than what it was when we met last year in New York in September,” he said in reference to an informal Quad meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in 2019.
Jaishankar pointed out that being wide-brimmed and pluralistic democracies with shared values, the four nations have affirmed collectively the importance of maintaining a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
“We remain 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. Our objective remains advancing the security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests in the region,” the EAM said.
In a more overt reference to China, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said as partners in the Quad, “it is more critical now more than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.”
He highlighted Beijing’s aggressive posture and belligerence in the South and the East China Sea, in the Mekong river with regards to ASEAN countries, the Himalayas, and with Taiwan.
When asked about rising Sino-US tensions over Taiwan, Pompeo said the events there is not about the US versus China but is about “freedom or tyranny”. “This is not a rivalry between the United States and China. This is for the soul of the world. This is about whether this will be a world that operates in this sense that we’re – on a rules-based international order system or one that’s dominated by a coercive totalitarian regime like the one in China.”
The top American diplomat said that cooperation in the region need not limit to the Quad but expand to include ASEAN countries, many of whom spar with Beijing over the South China Sea “I’m confident that these four countries will be real leaders in pushing back against the Chinese model for how to respond to this [corona]virus.”