Leaders of Japan, India, Australia and the United States on Tuesday warned against trying to “change the status quo by force” amid growing concerns over whether China could invade self-governing Taiwan.
A joint statement from the so-called quad bloc avoided any direct mention of China’s growing military power in the region, but left little doubt as to where its concerns lie.
The carefully written document also mentions the conflict in Ukraine, but India has clearly refused to condemn it without proposing a joint position on the attack.
Other members of the quad were less polite about their view that Russia needed a strong response to the war and sent a message that would deter other countries, including China.
“As Russia’s aggression in Ukraine violates the fundamental principles of international order … (we) have made sure that unilateral efforts to change the status quo by force will never be tolerated anywhere, especially in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
The group’s joint statement did not mention Russia or China, but did say that Beijing was regularly involved in various activities in the region.
“We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo and increase tensions in the region, such as the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coastguard ships and naval militias and attempts to disrupt other countries.” Said.
The four countries, despite their differences, are trying to form their own loose groupings in the face of China’s growing military and economic power.
They unveiled plans to invest at least $ 50 billion in infrastructure projects in the region over the next five years, and a maritime surveillance initiative aimed at strengthening surveillance of Chinese activity.
The move comes amid concerns over China’s recent efforts to build ties with Pacific nations, including the Solomon Islands, which sealed a security agreement with Beijing last month.
The Chinese foreign minister will visit the Solomon Islands this week, with reports suggesting he could join other countries, including Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati.
‘Democracy vs. Autocracy’
Acknowledging these concerns, Kishida had earlier urged quad members to “pay close attention” to their regional neighbors, including the Pacific islands.
“Without walking together with the countries in the region, the quad cannot succeed,” he said.
Newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also said the bloc needed to “push 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 spoke about eyebrows and regional temperatures, saying Washington was ready to intervene militarily to protect Taiwan against any Chinese attack.
He emphasized on Tuesday that his remarks did not mean a change in Washington’s long-standing “strategic ambiguity” on how it could respond to a Chinese attack, but that Beijing reacted angrily nonetheless.
And if Biden is interested in avoiding being seen as a policy change, he has little doubt about where the focus of the quad is.
“It’s about democracy versus dictatorship, and we need to make sure we deliver,” he said as the Quad Summit began.
The US strategy is for a “free, open, connected, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine only increases the importance of those goals.”
Growing regional discomfort is compounded by Chinese military activity, including travel, naval exercises, and restrictions by fishing vessels that are seen as regional defense and red line investigations.
The bloc says its new maritime surveillance program will “promote stability and prosperity in our seas and oceans”, again avoiding pointing fingers at Beijing when referring to illegal fishing – a complaint often leveled at China.
The leaders are set to meet again in person in Australia next year.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)