TOKYO – Foreign ministers from four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad group are gathering in Tokyo on Tuesday for talks that Japan hopes will increase their involvement in a regional initiative called “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness.
The meeting — the first in-person talks among the foreign ministers since the coronavirus pandemic broke out — brings together U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
Japanese officials say they will discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) initiative for greater security and economic cooperation that Japan and the U.S. have been pushing to bring together “like-minded” countries that share concerns about China’s growing assertiveness and influence.
On his way to Tokyo, Pompeo told reporters that the four countries hope to have some “significant achievements” at the meeting, but did not elaborate.
The talks come weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election and amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and China over the virus, trade, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights. Pompeo is attending the Quad meeting, though he canceled subsequent planned visits to South Korea and Mongolia after President Donald Trump was hospitalized with the coronavirus.
The talks follow a recent flareup in tensions between China and India over their disputed Himalayan border. Relations between Australia and China have also deteriorated in recent months.
Japan, meanwhile, is concerned about China's claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea. Japan also considers China's growing military activity to be a security threat. Japan's annual defense policy paper in July accused China of unilaterally changing the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized manmade islands and is assertively pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea's key fisheries and waterways.
New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will make his in-person diplomatic debut when he attends part of the Quad meeting. He will also hold separate talks with Pompeo on deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance and the FOIP.