Leaders of Japan, India, Australia and the United States warned on Tuesday of attempts to “change the status quo by force” as concerns mount over whether China could invade self-ruled Taiwan.
A joint statement by the so-called Quad Bloc avoided any direct mention of China’s growing military might in the region, but left little doubt as to where its concerns lie.
The carefully worded document also referred to the conflict in Ukraine, but without taking any joint stance on an invasion that India has emphatically refused to condemn.
The other members of the Quad were less hesitant about their view that a strong response to the war in Russia is needed and are sending a message that will deter other countries, including China.
“As the Russian invasion of Ukraine is shaking the fundamental principles of the international order… (we) affirmed that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force will not be tolerated anywhere, especially in the Indo-Pacific region,” said the Japanese Prime Minister. said Fumio Kishida.
The group’s joint statement made no mention of Russia or China, but listed a range of activities Beijing is regularly accused of in the region.
“We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions aimed at changing the status quo and increasing tensions in the area, such as the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coastguard ships and maritime militias and attempts to disturb the other countries.” offshore resource exploitation activities,” it said.
The four countries are trying to build their loose grouping into a more substantial counterweight to China’s rising military and economic power, despite their differences.
They unveiled plans to invest at least $50 billion over the next five years in infrastructure projects in the region and a maritime monitoring initiative aimed at strengthening oversight of Chinese activities.
The measures are accompanied by concerns over China’s recent attempts to build ties with Pacific countries, including the Solomon Islands, which signed a security pact with Beijing last month.
China’s foreign minister will visit the Solomon Islands this week, with reports suggesting he could add other countries, including Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati.
‘Democracies vs Autocracies’
In a nod to those concerns, Kishida previously urged Quad members to “listen closely” to regional neighbors, including the Pacific islands.
“Without collaborating with countries in the region, the Quad cannot be successful,” he said.
Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also said the bloc “needs to boost our shared values in the region at a time when China clearly wanted to exert more influence”.
The Quad met a day after US President Joe Biden raised eyebrows and regional temperatures by saying Washington was ready to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan against any Chinese attack.
He insisted Tuesday that his comments did not change Washington’s long-standing “strategic ambiguity” about how it might respond to a Chinese invasion, but Beijing responded angrily nonetheless.
And if Biden was eager to avoid being seen as policy-changing, he left little doubt as to where the Quad’s focus lies.
“This is about democracies versus autocracies, and we need to make sure we deliver on that,” he said as the Quad summit kicked off.
The US strategy is aimed at a “free, open, connected, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific. Russia’s attack on Ukraine only magnifies the importance of those goals.”
There is growing regional discomfort with Chinese military activities, including flights, naval exercises and breaches by fishing vessels perceived as investigating regional defenses and red lines.
The bloc said its new maritime monitoring program would “promote stability and prosperity in our seas and oceans”, again avoiding pointing the finger at Beijing while referring to illegal fishing – an accusation often leveled at China.
The leaders will meet again next year in person, in Australia.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)