Leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. announce plan . . .
Following a virtual summit late last week, the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. announced their shared intent to work together on a range of issues, chief among them countering China, action on climate change, and advancing COVID vaccine access and distribution in the Indo-Pacific region. The ‘Quad’ group of countries further pledged that their foreign ministers will meet annually and for an in-person summit before year’s end. While some may read the group’s statement as a laundry list of foreign policy platitudes, others see it as a declaration of a concrete plan for the group to deepen co-operation and achieve results.
Evolution of the Quad . . .
Co-operation among members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or ‘Quad,’ grew out of responses to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and was formalized as a group in 2007 alongside joint military exercises. The ensuing decade was light on formal engagement, in part due to Australia’s reluctance to choose sides in escalating U.S.-China tensions. However, the group was re-invigorated as the cornerstone of former U.S. President Trump’s strategy to contain China’s growing influence in the region. Many analysts see the Quad’s future – if it is to successfully address issues of shared concern – as a nimble and dynamic group that prioritizes co-operation and action over form and structure, citing the group’s plan to increase COVID vaccine access as a positive step.
Anti-China messaging focused after summit . . .
Following the Quad summit, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Tokyo for talks with their Japanese counterparts, which focused mainly on China as a political, military, economic, and technological threat. The American side reiterated a strong commitment to defending Japan "through the full range of its capabilities, including nuclear." Separately, Kurt Campbell, President Biden’s Indo-Pacific co-ordinator and chief architect of the U.S.’s Asia pivot under former President Obama, stated that Washington would not improve relations with China until Beijing ceased its “economic coercion” of Australia through punitive tariffs and restrictions on imports of Australian products such as barley and wine. Washington has stepped up its diplomatic game in the Indo-Pacific, and it is clear that it is playing against China.