U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Asia’s key allies to unite against China’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in the region, as he spoke in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Pompeo was speaking at the start of a discussion with his Japanese, Indian and Australian Australian counterparts – the so-called quad group – who called for a united front against the increasingly claimant Beijing.
But it was the top US diplomat who took a hard line on China, referring to the “epidemic from Wuhan”, which he said was “perpetuated by the cover-up of the Chinese Communist Party.”
He warned that citing China’s actions in the Himalayas, the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere, “it is now more crucial than ever that we cooperate to protect our people and partners from the exploitation, corruption and coercion of the CCP.”
The rhetoric could not be fully echoed by Washington’s partners in this lie, although Australia’s Foreign Minister Mary Payne spoke explicitly about the region’s desire for “governed by rules, not authority.”
These talks are with Washington, Sydney and New Delhi and they are all with Beijing.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar noted the fact that the meeting was held in view of the Coronavirus epidemic, being an “important witness” of the coalition.
But Japan, under the leadership of new Prime Minister Yoshihid Suga, is seeking to balance the need to support its allies with a desire to continue to gradually improve relations with China.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi did not mention China in his remarks, and the government has said the talks are not directed at any one country.
Motegi said at the beginning of the meeting that the current international order has been challenged in various fields and new coronavirus trends are accelerating.
“Our four countries share the goal of strengthening a free and open, rule-based international system.”
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Pompeo’s visit, which included bilateral talks with his counterparts as well as a meeting with Suga, took place despite the coronavirus crisis in Washington, where President Donald Trump and many employees and advisers have tested positive.
Although planned stops in South Korea and Mongolia were canceled, Pompeo said it was important to move forward with four-way talks in Tokyo, promising “significant announcements.”
However, no joint statement or press conference is expected after the meeting.
Pompeo is a vocal critic of China on issues ranging from security to epidemics, with the Trump administration seeking to squarely blame Beijing ahead of next month’s US election.
He is the first senior American official to visit Japan since Suga took office last month, and he said he believes Tokyo and Washington are on the same page.
On Tuesday, Suga said the coronavirus outbreak showed that “because now is the time we must coordinate more with as many countries as possible to share our vision.”
But he also avoided any specific mention of Beijing, which has made clear its dislike of sectarianism and last week urged countries to avoid “closed and specific” groups. “
“We hope that the countries concerned can move forward with the common interests of the countries in the region and do more for regional peace, stability and development,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Quad factionalism was heavily encouraged by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sought to increase cooperation with the region’s larger democracies to counter China’s military and other threats.
The first quad meeting was held in New York last year, and moves are underway to make it an annual event.
Hih-si-sah / kaaf / kaan
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