Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, The University of Tokyo
Foreign Ministers of Japan, US, Australia and India, countries composing the so-called “Quad,” Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, met in Tokyo in October 6.
It gave another opportunity for the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to unleash sharp criticisms on China’s behavior and system.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, newly instated on September 16, hosted the foreign ministers. For Mr. Suga, that was the first major opportunity for face-to-face diplomatic meetings as a prime minister.
Mr. Suga showed his will to follow the footsteps of his predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his foreign policy project “FOIP,” the Free and Indo-Pacific vision.
“Indo-Pacific” is the recently predominant foreign policy agenda which was taken up by Japan, the US, India, Australia and nowadays even French and Germany. This concept serves as a rallying cry for regional and global powers which are faced with rising China’s assertiveness.
In the minutely scripted and choreographed Japanese diplomacy, choice and order of events tells us a lot about priority and emphasis.
Suga’s first phone meeting with world leaders after he took the position of the was India’s Prime Minister Modi. He then talked with President Trump, both on September 20.
The Quad meeting in Tokyo was the first ministerial-level international conference in Japan since the outbreak and spread of COVID-19.
Realizing the vision of Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) on the basis of the cooperation of the four regional and global powers of the Quad would be sustained as the main foreign policy agenda for Japan under Suga’s leadership. India is the key country in this new alignment in the international politics and has been and will be courted by world powers.
The Quad foreign ministers emphasized is their strong support for ASEAN in keeping up its unity and centrality in the South East Asia which has been under the strong pressure by China’s divide and rule strategies. It also invites a wider circle of like-minded countries including those in Europe to join hands.
Even though visions of the Indo-Pacific differ slightly according to four countries, particularly on the relationship with China, they are increasingly overlapping with each other and forming a loose framework of cooperation on many agenda, including on security issues.
In the “After COVID-19” era, those four countries of the Quad would become the main pillars of a more Asia-centered international order.