Top ‘Quad’ diplomats gather to affirm security and economic ties

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The foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, Australia and India began talks in Melbourne on Friday to affirm their efforts to advance national security and economic cooperation in the face of the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and their Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held the third in-person gathering of representatives of the four major Indo-Pacific democracies, collectively known under the name of “the Quad”.

The participants were expected to hold a joint press conference and likely release a document after the talks, according to Japanese officials.

The talks will pave the way for a summit involving the leaders of the four nations that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden have agreed to hold in Japan in the first half of 2022.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne (left to right), Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a photo in Melbourne on Friday. | POOL/VIA REUTERS

Without naming China, which is increasingly assertive in its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, foreign ministers will reaffirm the importance of a rules-based order and strengthen coordination to achieve a Free and open Indo-Pacific, officials said. noted.

Before hosting the meeting, Payne said in a press release that the four countries “share a commitment to openness and transparency.”

“Together, we form a vital network of liberal democracies committed to practical cooperation and ensuring that all Indo-Pacific nations, large and small, are able to make their own strategic decisions, without coercion,” Payne said.

Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly opposed what they call “any unilateral attempt to change the status quo” by force in the East China Sea, where the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands are located and claimed by China and where Beijing has increased its military influence.

Beijing was suspicious of the Quad dialogue, seeing it as an attempt to contain the communist country.

With North Korea having fired ballistic missiles on several occasions since the beginning of this year, the country’s missile and nuclear programs and the commitment of the Quad countries to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will also be on the agenda. agenda, according to officials.

The four nations are also expected to discuss the situation around Ukraine at a time when Russian military buildup near its border is fueling fears of an invasion from Moscow.

They will also likely discuss the political unrest and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar since the military seized power in a coup a year ago.

The Quad group held its last face-to-face meeting in October 2020 in Tokyo, followed by telephone interviews in February 2021.

After the meeting, Hayashi and Blinken are due to travel to Hawaii on Saturday to attend another meeting on Sunday also involving South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

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