Quad ministers address Indo-Pacific ‘coercion’, climate and COVID
The United States, Australia, Japan and India on Friday pledged to deepen cooperation to ensure the Indo-Pacific region is free from “coercion”, a thinly veiled blow to economic and military expansion from China.
Foreign ministers from the so-called Quad Group, meeting in the Australian city of Melbourne, also vowed to boost cooperation on COVID-19, cyber threats and the fight against terrorism. In a joint statement, they pledged to work on humanitarian aid, disaster assistance and infrastructure delivery in the region and condemned North Korea’s “destabilizing ballistic missile launches” in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
They said their informal group Quad is committed to deepening engagement with regional partners and increasing their capacity to tackle unregulated and illegal fishing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Fiji on Saturday to meet with Pacific island leaders for whom fisheries and climate change are likely to be priority issues.
“We agreed to enhance maritime security support for Indo-Pacific partners to enhance their maritime domain awareness and ability to develop their offshore assets, secure freedom of navigation and overflight, and combat against challenges such as illegal fishing,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. the meeting. Quad partners “oppose coercive economic policies” that run counter to the World Trade Organization system, “and will work collectively to foster global economic resilience against such actions,” the statement said, making referring to China’s recent trade boycotts of Australia and Lithuania.
Blinken arrived in Australia this week as Washington grapples with a dangerous standoff with Moscow, which has amassed some 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and stoked Western fears of an invasion. Russia denies having such plans. The Biden administration wants to show the world that its long-term strategic focus remains the Asia-Pacific region and that a major foreign policy crisis in one part of the world does not distract it from its key priorities.
Asked by reporters on Friday whether a confrontation with China in the Indo-Pacific was inevitable, Blinken replied that “nothing is inevitable.” “Having said that, I think we share concerns that in recent years China has acted more aggressively at home and more aggressively in the region,” he said.
China denounced the Quad as a Cold War construct and a clique “targeting other countries”. Payne said earlier Friday that the Quad’s cooperation on the region’s COVID response was “most critical”, along with cybersecurity and maritime security, infrastructure, climate action and disaster relief – in particular after the recent volcanic eruption in Tonga – also a focus.
Quad nations have begun holding annual naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific to demonstrate interoperability, and the United States itself conducts freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea. Blinken’s trip comes after China and Russia last week declared a “limitless” strategic partnership, their most detailed and assertive declaration to work together – and against the United States – to build a new order. international community based on their own interpretations of human rights and democracy. .
US-China relations are at their lowest level in decades, with the world’s two major economies at odds over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea and China’s treatment of ethnic Muslims. Biden told Asian leaders in October that the United States would launch talks on a new Indo-Pacific economic framework. But few details have emerged and his administration has been reluctant to offer the increased market access that Asian countries want, seeing it as a threat to American jobs.
Critics say the lack of U.S. economic engagement is a major weakness in Biden’s approach to the region, where China remains the biggest trading partner for many Indo-Pacific countries.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)