US, Japan pledge to work with India, Australia on free Indo-Pacific, strengthening Quad
Declaring that the Quad “has never been stronger,” the US and Japan have reiterated their commitment to work with India and Australia to build a free and “thriving” Indo-Pacific where, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugo warned, the “security environment has become increasingly severe.”
In a joint statement issued on Friday after their talks, US President Joe Biden and Sugo said, “Together, we will continue to work with allies and partners, including with Australia and India through the Quad, which has never been stronger, to build the free, open, accessible, diverse, and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek.”
The Quad is made up of India, the US, Japan and Australia and has assumed an important role in Washington's strategy to confront China's military, economic and diplomatic challenges.
Signifying the importance Biden places on Beijing's threat, his first multilateral summit after becoming president was held last month with the Quad Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Scott Morrison of Australia and Sugo.
In the coronavirus-stricken world where travel is limited, Sugo became the first foreign leader to physically visit the White House in Biden's presidency further highlighting the China factor.
Speaking at a White House news conference, Sugo said that they “had serious talks on China's influence over the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific and the world at large” and agreed “to oppose any attempts to change the status quo” through “intimidation of others in the region” – a reference that covers China's escalation of tensions along the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas over the past year.
He said that they will also take on attempts by China to use “force or coercion in the East and South China Seas” – where Beijing has had confrontations with several countries including Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines in their territorial waters.
While Japan and the US “will take the lead to promote the vision” of a free and open Indo-Pacific “through concrete efforts, we will also cooperate with other countries and regions, including the ASEAN, Australia, and India,” he added.
Because “the regional security environment has become increasingly severe,” Sugo said, “the deterrence and response capabilities of our alliance must be strengthened.”
“I conveyed my resolve to reinforce Japan's defence capabilities while President Biden again demonstrated America's commitment to the defence of Japan,” he said.
Biden spoke of the effort launched at the Quad summit to jointly provide one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in the region, with India being the manufacturer.
“Top of our agenda is, of course, getting the pandemic under control and helping our friends and neighbours throughout the Indo-Pacific region to recover. Earlier this year, we -- together with India and Australia -- launched the landmark Quad Vaccine Partnership to expand the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and assist countries throughout the region with vaccination efforts,” he said.
(South Asia Monitor/IBNS)