Pompeo’s one-day trip to Japan . . .
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took part in a ‘Quad’ meeting on Tuesday in Tokyo with his counterparts from Japan, Australia, and India. Formally known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad was initially created to organize humanitarian aid after the 2004 tsunami, but has since evolved into a diplomatic and security partnership. The focus of this particular meeting was the COVID-19 pandemic and cybersecurity, as well as the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) initiative. The U.S. also used the opportunity to call for increased collaboration between the four countries to curb China’s increasing influence.
Tensions with China rising . . .
Pompeo explicitly called out the Chinese Communist Party, stating that it is necessary for the Quad to act against “the CCP’s exploitation, corruption and coercion.” Pompeo’s counterparts – Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi, Australia’s Marise Payne, and India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar – all refrained from directly mentioning China. Their silence is likely because all three depend heavily on China for trade, so must play a delicate balancing act when it comes to criticizing the CCP. The Chinese Embassy in Japan released a statement today stating that multilateral co-operation should not target third parties. The Embassy stated that “Pompeo has repeatedly fabricated lies about China and maliciously created political confrontation,” and it “urge[d] the U.S. to abandon its Cold War mentality.”
Possible institutionalization of the Quad . . .
All four countries announced their support for the FOIP initiative and agreed to have Quad meetings on a more frequent basis. Pompeo implied that there was talk of institutionalizing the Quad as a security framework and potentially adding new countries. This would transform the Quad from an informal dialogue to a formal strategic alliance and would have implications for China – a formalized Quad could attempt to contain China just as NATO attempted to contain the Soviet Union. Some analysts are skeptical whether a formalized version of the Quad could come to fruition. Others ask whether this could be the start of an Asia Pacific NATO – which would mark the largest shift in U.S.-Asia relations since WWII. In the recently published Canada and the Indo-Pacific: An Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada Policy Paper, APF Canada cautioned that rather than align its interests with what are fast becoming anti-China strategies justified in terms of a ‘free’ and ‘open’ region, Canada would do better to adopt a ‘diverse,’ ‘inclusive,’ and ‘stable’ Indo-Pacific framework, one that it could then work into a strategy of broader diversification in Asia.