US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday denounced China’s “underhand activity” during a day of quadrilateral discussions in Tokyo with his Australian, Indian and Japanese counterparts aimed at symbolically displaying a united front against the Asian giant .
In the morning, Pompeo and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne spoke of their “shared concerns over China’s underhand activity” in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a statement from the US State Department.
Mr. Pompeo’s trip to Japan has been maintained despite the coronavirus pandemic and contamination of President Donald Trump and some of his White House advisers.
Due to this situation, however, Mr. Pompeo gave up at the last moment two additional stopovers, in South Korea and Mongolia.
But the Tokyo meeting of the “Quad” – an informal strategic grouping of the United States, Australia, India and Japan – remained on its agenda.
His visit to Japan is also the first by a senior US official since the appointment of new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in mid-September, who is also due to meet with Pompeo on Tuesday.
“In his first statement after taking office, Suga described the free and open Indo-Pacific region as ‘the bedrock of regional peace and stability’. I fully agree, ”Pompeo said on Tuesday.
“I would only add that the cornerstone of this foundation is the American-Japanese relationship, and the security and prosperity it has brought to our peoples,” he added before an interview with the Japanese Minister of Affairs foreign Toshimitsu Motegi.
The formation of the “Quad”, first formed in 2019 in New York, had been strongly encouraged by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, of whom Suga was a staunch adviser.
But the scope of this grouping appears for the moment essentially symbolic.
Before leaving for Tokyo, Mr. Pompeo said he expected “some important announcements” at the end of these quadrilateral exchanges, but he specified that they would take place only after the return of the ministers to their respective countries, after consultation with their leaders.
The aim of the region’s leading democracies is to step up cooperation in the face of an increasingly powerful and ambitious China.
Mr. Pompeo and the Trump administration are firmly against Beijing on issues of security, trade and technology. New Delhi and Sydney’s relations with Beijing have also deteriorated severely in recent months.
By contrast, for Tokyo, the exercise looks more like a balancing act, with Mr. Suga appearing to be concerned about sparing China, like Mr. Abe before him.
The Japanese Prime Minister had thus underlined Monday his intention to promote the “Quad”, while building “stable relations with neighboring countries, including Russia and China”.
Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Motegi, Ms. Payne and the head of Indian diplomacy Subrahmanyam Jaishankar are also due to discuss the coronavirus, maritime security and cybersecurity on Tuesday, according to a Japanese diplomat.