The leaders of the QUAD, comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia, during a virtual summit on Thursday voiced a unified position denouncing attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.
“Unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion like the recent Russian aggression against #Ukraine are also unacceptable in the Indo-Pacific region. It is critically important for us to bring about a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kishida was quoted as saying by his office on Twitter.
The Quad’s joint readout echoed this position, saying the four met to reiterate the adherence to “a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected.”
“[The Quad leaders] reaffirmed their dedication to the Quad as a mechanism to promote regional stability and prosperity,” the joint statement added.
Kishida further noted that the sides agreed to hold a face-to-face summit “within a few months” in Tokyo. Earlier, the Japanese media had repeatedly reported that the Quad summit could be held sometime in May.
“We agreed we will work in close cooperation to ensure the success of our next face-to-face Quad summit, which will be held in Tokyo in the coming months,” Kishida said.
The Quad was initiated in 2007 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an informal consultation mechanism of four countries sharing the values of “a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” The Chinese government has frequently denounced the Quad, lodging a formal diplomatic protest to its participants and calling it as an “Asian NATO.”
Tensions In Indo-Pacific
Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US and China are engaging in a showdown over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.
The Chinese foreign ministry had earlier denounced the visit by the bipartisan group of former senior US security officials to Taiwan. The delegation headed by Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, includes Meghan O’Sullivan, former deputy national security adviser; Michele Flournoy, former under-secretary of defense; Mike Green and Evan Medeiros, former China Directors at National Security Council.
President Biden had sent this defense delegation to Taiwan in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. The US wants to reassure the island nation of America’s commitment to its security, amid concerns that Beijing might make a move to reunite Taiwan while the world remains fixated on the war in Ukraine
“We come to Taiwan at a very difficult and critical moment in world history. As President Biden has said, democracy is facing sustained and alarming challenges, most recently in Ukraine,” said Mike Mullen. “Now more than ever, democracy needs champions.”
Mullen further added that the bipartisan delegation is aimed at reassuring regional allies that “the United States stands firm behind its commitments”.
The Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen warned against turning a blind eye to military aggression. “History teaches us that if we turn a blind eye to military aggression, we only worsen the threat to ourselves,” Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen told the delegation.
She further said that the people of Taiwan have empathy for the commitment of the Ukrainian people to protect their freedom and democracy, and their fearless dedication to defending their country, as Taiwan also stands on the frontlines of the battle for democracy.
“Facing threats to the security of the Taiwan Strait and the region, we look forward to working even more closely with the US and other stakeholders in the region,” Tsai further said.
US Warship In Taiwan Strait
However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin criticized the visit, saying it was “futile for the US to send anyone to demonstrate its so-called support for Taiwan”.
“The will of the Chinese people to defend our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is immovable. Whoever the United States sends to show support for Taiwan is bound to fail,” Wang said.
The American delegation’s visit to Taipei comes amid reports of Chinese military drill in the waters south of Taiwan. Recently, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson transited through Taiwan Strait.
“The ship is transiting through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”
Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command described the transit as provocative and said that it aims to embolden Taiwan separatist forces, calling it “hypocritical and futile”.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province while the island has remained independent from the mainland since 1949 and maintains separate political and economic relations with several other nations. Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow signed a joint statement agreeing to several foreign policy goals which included Russian support for China’s claim on Taiwan.
“The Russian side reaffirms its support for the One-China principle, confirms that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan,” reads the Joint Statement signed by Russia and China on February 4th.
The war in Ukraine is being followed with great interest in Beijing as it tries to weigh its options for the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland and therefore the visit of the US defense delegation to Taipei bears great significance.
However, the US has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity over the question of military intervention in the event that China goes to war with Taiwan, leaving doubts about the extent of its commitment to the security of the island nation.