Tokyo: India, the US, Japan and Australia agreed Tuesday to step up coordination in creating a free and open Indo-Pacific. They took such a decision amidst China’s growing assertiveness in the strategically vital region.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Australian Foreign attended meeting. Australian minister Marise Payne affirmed strengthening of a free, open and rules-based international order, the Japanese government said in a statement issued here.
The four major Indo-Pacific democracies are collectively known as the ‘Quad’. They vowed to coordinate in ensuring peace and stability of the region, ‘Kyodo’ news agency quoted the statement as saying.
The meeting assumes significance as it took place in the backdrop of China’s aggressive military behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, South China Sea and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Addressing the 2nd Quad ministerial meeting, Prime Minister Suga said a free and open Indo-Pacific is ‘widely recognised by the international community as a vision of peace and prosperity of this region,’ and that his government’s basic policy is to ‘further continue advancing our members to this end’.
Suga, who assumed the premiership last month, underscored the need to deepen quadrilateral ties, particularly as the novel coronavirus has spread globally.
“The international community is facing multiple and various challenges. This is exactly why right now is the time that we must further deepen our coordination with as many countries as possible that share our vision,” Suga said.
In his opening remarks, Jaishankar said that as vibrant and pluralistic democracies with shared values, the four nations have collectively affirmed 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 the international seas, respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty and peaceful resolution of disputes,” Jaishankar said, amidst growing global concern over China’s expansionist behaviour.
“Our objective remains advancing the security and the economic interests of all countries having legitimate and vital interests in the region,” Jaishankar added.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade. Although the US lays no claims to the disputed waters, it has challenged China’s growing territorial claims in the South China Sea by deploying warships and fighter jets to assert freedom of navigation and over flight patrols in the strategically vital region.
Meanwhile, Japan has lodged a protest against China’s creation of a digital museum laying out its claims to a group of Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea, the government’s top spokesman said on Monday.
“The Senkaku Islands have been recognised historically and under international law as an inherent part of Japan’s territory and we maintain effective control over them,” Kyodo news agency quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato as saying at a press conference.
China is ‘not in a position’ to create such a website regarding the islets, Kato said, adding that Japan has demanded through diplomatic channels that it be taken down.