The US and Japan have said that in association with India and Australia, they will ensure that the Quad continues to be a force for good or the benefit of the Indo-Pacific, amid China’s growing military muscle-flexing in the strategically vital region.
The two countries said this in a joint statement after the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan at the White House on Friday.
“With an unbreakable bilateral relationship as our foundation, we will also collaborate with others, in the region and beyond, for the benefit of the Indo-Pacific and the world,” the joint statement said.
“Together with Australia and India, we will ensure the Quad continues to be a force for good, committed to bringing tangible benefits to the region, including by delivering results on global health, cybersecurity, climate, critical and emerging technologies, and maritime domain awareness,” it said.
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In November 2017, the US, Australia, India and Japan gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence, amidst China’s muscle flexing in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. Beijing is also involved in a maritime dispute with Japan over the East China Sea.
According to the joint statement, Japan and the US will continue supporting ASEAN centrality and unity as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific envisages ASEAN Centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with ASEAN-led mechanisms, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), as platforms for dialogue and implementation of the Indo-Pacific cooperation, while preserving their formats.
“Our cooperation today is unprecedented, rooted in our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and a peaceful and prosperous world, guided by our shared values including the rule of law. At the same time, the Indo-Pacific faces growing challenges, from actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order by China to provocations by North Korea,” Biden and Kishida said in their joint statement.
Earlier in a joint Oval Office media appearance, Biden said there has never been a time when the US has been closer to Japan.
“Last year in Japan, you said to me, and I quote, ‘We are two nations that share fundamental values.’ I couldn’t agree with you more. We are. These shared democratic values are the source of our strength, the source of our alliance, and the source of our being able to deliver for all our people,” he said.
“We’re modernising our military alliance, building on Japan’s historic increase in defence spending and new National Security Strategy. Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance and, more importantly, to the defence of Japan,” Biden said.
“We’re working closely on tech and economic issues, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” he said.
Prime Minister Kishida, on his first official visit to Washington, said Japan and the United States are currently facing the most challenging and complex security environment in recent history.
He said to ensure peace and prosperity in the region and to contribute to that and also safeguard the peace and security of Japan, the Asian country formulated a new national security strategy late last year.
“In so doing, Japan decided to fundamentally reinforce our defence capabilities, including in possessing the counterstrike capabilities, and in order to ensure that, increased our defence budget,” Kishida said.
“And this new policy was set forth by Japan, and I believe that this will be beneficial for the deterrence capabilities and response capabilities of the alliance as well,” he said.
President Biden also congratulated Japan on the start of its two-year term on the UN Security Council and on its presidency for the month of January.
“We begin 2023 together as the closest of allies and friends, newly committed to achieving peace and prosperity, not only through our words but through our actions. The times demand no less,” the US-Japan joint statement said.