Japan will host a meeting next week of the foreign ministers of four of the Indo-Pacific region’s biggest democracies, in the so-called Quad group seen as a counter to China’s influence in the region.
The Oct. 6 forum in Tokyo will bring together U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss issues including the coronavirus pandemic and the regional situation, Motegi told a news conference on Tuesday.
The meeting is set to be one of the highest-profile diplomatic gatherings for the Trump administration before the U.S. presidential election, where policy toward Beijing has become a major campaign issue. It also comes as China and India try to defuse tensions on their disputed Himalayan border, after a military standoff led to gunshots being fired over the frontier for the first time since 1975.
“The Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision is increasingly important in the post Covid-19 world so we would like to confirm the importance of further deepening the collaboration among us and many other countries to realize the vision,” Motegi said.
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The meeting will also be the biggest diplomatic event for the government of new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday by telephone and agreed to work closely on issues.
Suga, who became premier in mid-September, has little diplomatic experience. One of his most challenging tasks will be seeking a delicate balance between Japan’s biggest trading partner, China, and its only military ally, the U.S. In recent months, the world’s two largest economies have clashed over everything from trade to data security.
The Quad held its first formal ministerial-level gathering about a year ago in New York, which was seen as a sign of growing unease over Xi’s more assertive foreign policy. The elevation last year of the discussion from official-level talks suggests the previously informal framework was being strengthened to improve intelligence-gathering and present a united front on regional security issues.
China has made clear its opposition to the Quad’s “Indo-Pacific strategy.” In March 2018, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the bloc was a “headline-grabbing idea.” Wang may visit Japan as early as October to meet Motegi, national broadcaster NHK reported over the weekend, without giving a date.
The upcoming Quad meeting comes as the trade ministers of Japan, India and Australia agreed this month to work toward achieving supply chain resilience in the Indo-Pacific region, following reports that the three nations are looking to work together to counter China’s dominance on trade.
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