The Quad (US, Japan, India, Australia Security Dialogue) : Updates and Discussions

RISING SUN

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India, Japan should ensure Indo-Pacific peace: Japan’s ex Defence Minister​

New Delhi: Professor Satoshi Morimoto, former Defence Minister of Japan; and Chancellor, Takushoku University, Japan, speaks to The Sunday Guardian.

Q: How do you see Japan’s future security outlook under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga? Do you think a political consensus has emerged in recent times to make Japan’s security outlook more responsible and responsive? How should Japan promote political consensus to strengthen its security and military outlook?


A: The pandemic crisis of Covid-19 has caused serious suffering all over the world since early 2020. It doesn’t look like that the spread of Covid-19 will finish anytime soon in 2021. It will be crucial when the herd acquired immunity starts functioning because of vaccination to overcome this on-going Covid-19 crisis. Since the last year, this pandemic has badly affected the international exchange of people and goods. Economic performance and diplomatic activities also have been stagnated. Domestic politics of various countries tends to be inward-looking. Advanced countries are sluggish in international coordination and cooperation as well. International development assistance to developing countries is severely stagnated. As a result, it leads to quite serious situations such as the shortage of food supply and healthcare support, and the deterioration of public security in many countries.


Q: How do you see the current US-China rivalry, and how Japan under Prime Minister Suga aims to strengthen its security ties in Asia and beyond?


A: In this global context, China and Russia pose serious challenges and anxieties to neighbouring countries and regions due to their hegemonic expansionist policy, backed by strong military power. Russia attempts assertive military interventions in Eastern Europe (such as Ukraine) and in the Middle East (such as Syria) to expand Russian spheres of influence. On the Indo-Pacific side, Far East Russia, China, and North Korea keep on expanding their military activities in East Asia. The Trump administration attempted to stop China’s intelligence activities in the US from stealing sensitive high-technology, information, and property rights to increase China’s advantage in the area of high-technology. PLA expands their military activities in maritime and air space. Beijing also seeks access to various countries like island countries in the Indo-Pacific region by using their financial loans, investments, bribery, intimidation, etc. In this strategic context, the United States has been promoting the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Japan has agreed with this FOIP concept and cooperates with the US, based on the Japan-US alliance. In addition, Australia, India, Japan, and the US have been developing the Quad security dialogue to advance the FOIP strategy. Meanwhile, Beijing expresses their opposition to both the FOIP and the Quad.


Q: What are the prospects of US-Japan security ties under President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Suga? Do you see the relationship between the US and Japan will strengthen further under these new leaderships?


A: The Biden administration aims to put emphasis on international cooperation and America’s alliance partnership to recover US credibility and reliability in the world. I agree with this policy direction. On the other hand, American society has been seriously fragmented. It will be Biden’s top priority to repair and rebuild the social cohesion of the United States. So far it is not so certain to which direction the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy will actually move forward. There are two fundamental questions. First, if Biden’s China policy would seek for the cooperation and compromise with China through their strategic dialogue as the Obama administration did, then Biden might repeat Obama’s mistakes again. The US engagement policy with China as a “responsible stakeholder” failed to stop China’s assertive expansion after all. Second, Biden’s new Indo-Pacific strategy might take a new approach, based on more inclusive allies and partners, which are different from the FOIP. Nonetheless, Biden will continue to take the Quad concept seriously. It would be the best outcome if this kind of Biden’s new inclusive partnership approach could discourage the hegemonic expansion of China and Russia. Otherwise, if Biden’s new approach seeks for the coexistence and coprosperity with China and Russia by further compromise and reconciliation, then Biden’s engagement policy would most probably give opportunistic advantages to China and Russia.


Q: How do you see the prospects of Quad in Indo-Pacific post Shinzo Abe? Do you see Japan will like to militarize the Quad process?


A: The Quad concept is a key strategy for realising peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. In recent years, the Quad security framework has been rapidly making progress for two reasons. First, China’s provocative attempts led to the China-India border conflict last year. It is appreciated that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership deals with China’s provocations by self-restrained response and deterrence. Second, China’s bullying pressures on Australia leads to the deterioration of Australian public perceptions of China. It is apparently against international trade rules that Beijing put high trade pressures on Australian export markets such as barley, beef, wine, and iron ore by introducing massive tariff, strict control or sanctions. Beijing’s coercive approaches to New Delhi and Canberra are due to the strategic mismanagement of Beijing. On the contrary, these Chinese behaviours push the Quad security cooperation much closer.


The Quad framework is a Foreign Minister-level security dialogue at this time. This Quad framework is expected to step up to a summit-level security dialogue framework. Furthermore, the Quad should build a Quad-based security framework to support countries of Southeast and Southwest Asia by promoting various security cooperations: defence equipment cooperation, capacity-building measures, joint training, and joint exercise. If these joint security cooperation measures are properly implemented, then the Quad framework will become the key pillars of regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.


Q: What is the prospect of Quad gradually turning into Quad Plus? What specific interest Japan holds with regards to the Quad Plus narrative? How do you see China’s offensive expansion under President Xi Jinping? How should Tokyo cope with it in cooperation with the US and other Quad partners?


A: In recent years, major European countries keep much interest in the Indo-Pacific region and send their naval and air force to the region. The US, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand join together to ensure the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea in addressing illicit maritime activities and ship-to-ship transfers. Meanwhile, Canberra and Tokyo are also talking about Japan’s escort of Australian force and the conclusion of the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement (Japan-Australia RAA similar to Status of Forces Agreement). Major European countries also join the Indo-Pacific regional security. In this year, 2021, UK will deploy its aircraft career “Queen Elizabeth” to Asia. Germany also sends its frigate warship to Asia. France, Germany, Italy, and the UK have already published their Indo-Pacific strategy. The Quad members should consider inviting these West European countries to join the Quad security framework with an affiliate membership status.


Q: What role do you expect India to play? How do you assess the future of India-Japan ties in a rapidly changing geo-political environment?


A: In this strategic context, if any serious situation happens in the foreseeable future, it would probably occur in the maritime/air spheres of the South China Sea and the East China Sea (including Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands of Japan). It should be noted that India’s role is critical to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. No other country but India can ensure the freedom and security of navigation in the Indian Ocean. Japan and India should work together to overcome this current Covid-19 crisis, and then redouble our efforts to ensure the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific in closer cooperation, and to maintain our shared universal values of freedom and democracy.


Dr Jagannath Panda, who conducted this interview, is Research Fellow, MP-IDSA. Dr. Panda is a specialist in East Asian affairs.
 

RISING SUN

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Quad forum vow to stop China treating East and South China Sea waters as its own​

Australia will “strongly oppose” Chinese attempts to treat the waters of the East and South China Seas as their own, vowing with Japan, the United States and India to uphold the sovereignty of regional partners.
In talks overnight on Thursday, Marise Payne and her “Quad” counterparts discussed regional maritime security challenges, including China’s use of its domestic coastguard fleet to harass foreign fishing ships in contested waters.

Senator Payne said the key Indo-Pacific democracies were committed to supporting ASEAN neighbours and “upholding international rules and obligations”.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting an open, inclusive and resilient region where the rights of all countries are respected and disputes are resolved peacefully, free from coercion, and in accordance with international law,” she said.​


Japan’s statement after the virtual meeting said its Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu expressed serious concern over China’s new Coastguard Law, which allows its vessels to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels in waters claimed by China.

According to the statement, “the four ministers concurred to strongly oppose unilateral and forceful attempts to change the status quo in the context of the East and South China Sea”.

A spokesman for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ministers agreed to “strengthen co-operation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation and territorial integrity”.

The Quad foreign ministers vowed to stand by regional partners in the COVID recovery phase, amid a push by Beijing to use the crisis to reshape the regional order in its favour.

Myanmar was also a key topic for discussion, with the ministers reiterating “our serious concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and affirmed our commitment to its democratic transition”, Senator Payne said.

The Lowy Institute’s power and diplomacy program Hervé Lemahieu said there was a “shared concern” among Quad partners over China’s attempts to force other nations’ vessels out of the contested waters.

“We are more focused on the South China Sea, but there are a lot of tactics that China is deploying in the East China Sea which are being replicated in the South China Sea, and vice-a-versa,” Mr Lemahieu said.

“That includes the use of its coastguard, and trying to make the management of the seas a domestic law enforcement issue as opposed to one that involves sovereign states, which is a dangerous precedent.”

It was the first meeting of Quad foreign ministers since Joe Biden’s election as US President, and follows a joint naval exercise by the grouping’s members hosted by India in November.

The ministers agreed to regular Quad foreign ministers’ meetings, and laid the groundwork for a first-of-its-kind Quad leaders’ meeting in coming months.

The planned Quad leaders’ meeting, which would bring together Scott Morrison, President Biden, Japan’s Yoshihide Suga and India’s Narendra Modi, could occur in the first half of the year, would help cement the new US President’s Indo-Pacific policy agenda.

The Australian government is working hard to elevate the Quad as a security grouping, and is also a strong supporter of Britain’s proposed Democratic Ten or D10 grouping of democratic nations to replace the G7.

In another collective stand against China this week, Australia joined 57 other countries to support a Canadian-led international declaration denouncing state-sponsored arbitrary detention of foreign citizens. The move came almost 800 days after Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detained in China.
 

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Geography according to the USA:

 

RISING SUN

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The Quad is the only way forward for India, US, Australia and Japan in a China-wary world​

In 2007, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, then-Australian prime minister John Howard, then-US vice-president Dick Cheney and the Indian prime minister at the time Manmohan Singh, cut an odd picture. Three ultra-conservative hardliners, unabashed ‘nationalists’ and policy hawks on one side, stood beside a pacifist but pragmatic Manmohan in the same room. Personal governance styles aside, this eclectic leadership from the most distant points on a global map foresaw the dangerously expansionist rise of China, even before Xi Jinping had been promoted to the Chinese Politburo Standing Committee, let alone become Chinese ‘president for life’.


They started a dialogue that was rather unimaginatively and literally called the ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’. The operative word in the expression was in the middle ie ‘security’, and not the geometric ‘Quadrilateral or Quad’ that has since become more fashionable. A lot was unsaid about its agenda, much was conveyed by its ambiguity and grouping, but a lot more was felt by its portents in Beijing. Murmurs of a brewing ‘Asia’s NATO’ were exciting, but it was still only in the first stage of ‘dialogues’.


Within a year, the George W Bush era was replaced by Barack Obama who initially punted on ‘historical opportunities’ of peace with China, Howard’s successor Kevin Rudd succumbed to a combination of Chinese protestations and charms, resulting in the cooking of the Quad on very low heat, just when Xi was steadily climbing the ladders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Today, all four forewarning men of the formative Quad have demitted high offices owing to infirmities of age or politics. Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, the Quad ‘dialogues’ are still like a wilting wallflower in the background, exposing the vagaries and snail-paced changes in democracies.


The threat perceptions envisaged in 2007 were not wrong, they were only grossly underestimated, as Xi has since confirmed and accelerated all fears.

Donald Trump has handed over bitter US-China trade wars as transition dowry to successor Joe Biden, Xi has attacked Australia with cyber attacks, economic coercion and menacing language, whereas the Japanese are increasingly teased on the sovereignty of their islands with routine transgressions by Chinese war planes and naval ships. Amidst all this, the Indian armed forces are locked in a face-to-face standoff at various points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). What was feared in 2007 is playing out in full display in 2021 — whereas, the reactionary and composite joint response to this threat is still in the form of ‘dialogues’.


The Quad’s stated objective of ‘free, open and prosperous’ Indo-Pacific Region lacks the compelling bite, deterrence and collectiveness of a NATO, which is to safeguard the freedom and security of all its members by political or military means. Therefore the Quad has remained practically ineffectual with multiple acts of Chinese belligerence like Doka La in 2017 or the continuing provocation in Ladakh region — with a supremely under-leveraged response for a notional Quad grouping with a combined pre-pandemic GDP of $30 trillion and a combined defence budget of $800 billion (four times that of China).


The Quad also jointly accounts for a mammoth and potentially-crippling 27.4 percent of all Chinese trade, yet the jointsmanship of the Cold War era response of NATO or Warsaw Pact blocs is missing, as if to suggest, that the threat from China has still not fructified? Never in history has China engaged militarily with the Quad countries so simultaneously and brazenly, as if it is in the full know that Quad will only remain mired in occasional dialogues among the disunited democracies.


The neologism and dare of ‘the Chinese Century’ stares in the face of future rules-based international order, and the United States in no longer in a position to counter the same, unilaterally. A coordinated security strategy among the directly impacted, viable and able (read: Quad) is the only workable counter, globally. However, while Delhi, Tokyo and Canberra have upped the ante and called for more meat in the Quad, the elephant in the room ie the newly-minted Biden administration, has an untested commitment on the same. However, despite the usually vacuous and mealy-mouthed diplomatese that accompanies White House statements, the latest one pertaining to the first Biden-Narendra Modi call carried the specificity of Quad.


‘The leaders agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,’ it read. The potential talons of the Quad were unusually and reassuringly mentioned in the opening engagement. The ensuing backdrop of the Indian Navy’s largest war game, the biennial Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise (TROPEX) entailing additional battle platforms and resources of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard, were in consonance with the air of preparedness.


This followed the Malabar Navy Exercise last year that simulated war games and combat manoeuvres with all four Quad countries (Australia joined for the first time since 2007); earlier still in the year came the more basic Passage Exercises (PASSEX) with Quad navies, individually. Clearly the itch, understanding and realisation is unmistakable to ‘formalise’ Quad more definitely, even if it were to fall short of a strictly ‘military alliance’ like NATO – but, paper awaits the ink to conjoin the sensitivities of Quad, formally.


The fact that the prevailing situation warrants a Cold War era reaction in the form of enabled and empowered Quad imperatives is confirmed by a clearly concerned China that has urged all Quad members to shun a ‘Cold War mentality’. For starters, even a restricted political and diplomatic congruence (as opposed to a military) to bind Quad more definitely would suffice, as any joint action by the same in multilateral forums would signal the meaningful checkmating of China — joint posturing of the alliance, is key.


One of the challenges to institutionalising the Quad is the collateral assumption of heeding to each other’s non-Sino urgency, which may or may not be aligned to the other members’ sovereign preferences eg Russia or Iran. The US should not assume India partaking of any potential punitive action against Iran (as Trump bullied his way into forcing India earlier with sanctions), as that militates against India’s own regional calculus and stakes — therefore for Quad to succeed, it is critical that it only entails containing China, as its sole mandate.


There has been no such sovereign-specific-threat ‘grouping’ in modern history, but then there was never such a sovereign-specific-threat, earlier.

The commercial and diplomatic spin-offs of the Quad will be tangible and significant as the workings of ‘moral-democracies’ would dictate taking actions that are in consonance with the universal principles of liberality, pacificism and democracy — which are an inherent anathema to the illiberal, aggressive and communist China. The Quad is no longer an option, it is the only route, as all other alternatives to blunt Chinese aggression are mere sideshows. The other loosely aligned ‘bloc’ of the euphemistic West in the form of European Union, UK, Canada etc, would have no principal disagreement with the restrictive Quad agenda, and could only gain a powerful ‘shield’ through the same.


The longer the efforts to institutionalise, unwrite and define the specificities of China are put off, the steeper and more complex the challenge could become for the Sino-wary world. Ultimately it will boil down to the tenor, approach and decisiveness that the Biden administration decides to adopt — if he does go the Democrat way a la Obama era then history is doomed to repeat itself, painfully. However given that he served eight invaluable years as Obama’s vice-president and oversaw the growth of the Dragon’s overarching fangs owing to inconclusive ‘dialogues’, he would be expected to be more pointed, definitive and quick in playing the bind and force-multiplier, in the second Cold War era.