The leaders of Japan, India, Australia and the United States will meet in Tokyo on Tuesday to seek common ground to counter China’s growing regional economic and military influence.
The summit of the so-called Quartet is being held as Beijing reinforces its army and conducts exercises and maneuvers around the disputed territories, including Taiwan.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden warned China that it was “flirting with danger” as it intensified its military activities around the self-ruled island, which Beijing considers part of its territory.
Biden said Washington would be willing to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan, prompting China to warn the United States that it is “playing with fire” and not underestimating the country’s “firm resolve, strong will and strong ability.”
Japan has also gradually escalated its rhetoric about Beijing’s military moves, warning China against attempts to “change the status quo by unilateral force.”
Tokyo is cooperating with Washington to monitor Chinese naval activity, and is particularly concerned about movement around the disputed territories that Japan calls the Senkaku Islands and Beijing’s Diaoyu Islands.
Against this backdrop, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and newly elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will welcome him.
Among some of the four, there are hopes that the loose alliance will be transformed into a more powerful bloc capable of presenting a united front to Beijing.
“The Quartet is showing the world that cooperation among democracies can accomplish great things,” Biden said Monday after talks with Kishida.
But this unity was complicated by divisions with India – the only quartet member who did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
– neutral stance –
Biden and his allies have linked the strong response to Moscow’s war to Beijing’s regional ambitions, insisting that sanctions on Russia are a deterrent to other powers considering unilateral military action.
This has made India’s apparent refusal to take sides in the conflict an even more sensitive topic.
India is likely to push for a softer overall tone for any joint Quartet statement, moving away from the more forceful language Washington, Canberra and Tokyo have used in recent months.
Previous statements have focused on calls for “the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific” and warnings of “unilateral” moves in the region – without naming China directly.
“The Quartet gives the impression that it is focusing on ways to confront China. But India is likely to take a neutral stance,” Kazuhiro Mashima, professor of US politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, told AFP.
“In order not to put pressure on India, (Japan and the US) may focus on things like the economy and climate change,” he added.
The meeting will be a diplomatic trial by fire for the Australian Albanians, who traveled to Tokyo within hours of their formal inauguration as prime minister.
The 59-year-old centre-left Labor leader said the Tokyo talks would be “a good way to send a message to the world that there is a new government in Australia”.
Biden arrived in Japan on Sunday after a layover in Seoul where he is trying to reassure Asian allies that his administration has not been distracted by the war in Ukraine.
The suspension of the regional tour was the threat that North Korea might plan to launch new missiles or even a nuclear test.
Speculation that the launch could take place when Biden was in Seoul has not materialized, but Washington has said it is still “ready” and it is also possible that Pyongyang’s missile program will be on the Quartet’s agenda.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by the NDTV crew and is published from a syndicated feed.)