With China on mind, Japan pushes quad dialogue with India, US & Australia

japan-us-indiaWith China’s President Xi Jinping promising to making China a major global power at the country’s twice-in-a-decade Party Congress, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono has said that his country would soon propose a top-level security dialogue with the US, India and Australia on board.

Speaking to The Nikkei daily, he said that the “idea is for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa”. “We are in an era when Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture,” Mr. Kono said.

The daily reported that the foreign minister said that he had already had a brief discussion on the same with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on the sidelines of a foreign ministers meet in Manila two months back.

“Free and open seas will benefit all countries, including China and its Belt and Road Initiative,” he said, adding that dismantling North Korea’s missile programme will also focus prominently in the talks. Recently, expressing the US’s evolving view on China’s ambitious project, Mr. Tillerson had expressed concerns over China’s predatory economics and its not-so-responsible rise. He had also said that the US was looking at ways to develop alternative financing mechanisms to counter China, hinting that discussions with concerned countries had already begun.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has recently been re-elected with a resounding mandate, is expected to discuss the proposal with US President Donald Trump when he hosts the latter in Tokyo early November.

malabarIn 2015, India had hosted Japan and Australia for its first ever high-level trilateral dialogue. Last year US Admiral Harry Harris had pushed for a four-way dialogue with the inclusion of the United States to the trilateral. Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi he had said: “An idea to consider is perhaps expanding this trilateral to a quadrilateral venue between India, Japan, Australia and the US. We are all united in supporting the international rules-based order that has kept the peace and is essential to all of us.”

Expressing reservations that the dialogue proposed by the US should not become a containment strategy directed at China, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson had said: “We have no objection to relevant countries’ normal cooperation, but we believe that relevant cooperation should not be targeted at a third party.”

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