In joint statement, US, Japan, Australia, India stop short of specifically reacting to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The US, Australia, India, and Japan on Tuesday voiced “strong support” for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and peaceful settlement of disputes “without resorting to threat or use of force, any unilateral attempt to change the status quo.”
In a joint statement released by the White House, the leaders of the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue alliance vowed to make the Indo-Pacific region “more resilient for the 21st century.”
Under its new Asia policy, the US uses “Indo-Pacific” to refer to the wider Asia-Pacific region.
US President Joe Biden, along with the premier of Japan Fumio Kishida, Australia’s Anthony Albanese and India’s Narendra Modi, met in the Japanese capital on Wednesday in their second in-person summit that coincided Biden’s first tour of Asia.
This was the fourth meeting of the lose security alliance, also known as the Quad, aimed at containing China’s expanding economic and military influence in the region.
For its part, China has maintained its opposition against actions targeting third parties in the Asia-Pacific, saying such steps would be “doomed to fail.”
The leaders declared that the Quad is “a force for good, committed to bringing tangible benefits to the region.”
“With the COVID-19 pandemic still inflicting human and economic pain around the world, tendencies for unilateral actions among states and a tragic conflict raging in Ukraine, we are steadfast,” the statement said.
– ‘Decisive action’
In its statement, the Quad pledged to take “decisive action” to “strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, any unilateral attempt to change the status quo, and freedom of navigation and overflight.”
The statement said these were “essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and to the world.”
“We reaffirm our resolve to uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic and political coercion.”
On Ukraine, the statement said, the Quad members discussed their “respective responses to the conflict” and assessed its implications for the Indo-Pacific.”
However, it stopped short of a specific response to Russia over its war on Ukraine.
Barring India, all Quad members have condemned Russia for its war on Ukraine and have imposed punishing sanctions on Moscow. New Delhi is currently engaged in a long-term partnership with Russia, cemented by arms and energy supplies.
“We also emphasized that all countries must seek peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law,” the joint statement said.
On maritime violations in the South and East China Sea, the Quad called for adherence to international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight.
“We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area, such as the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” it added.
– Condemnation of North Korea
Calling for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the Quad members also urged the immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees allegedly held by North Korea.
“We also condemn North Korea’s destabilizing ballistic missile development and launches, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile tests,” the leader said, urging Pyongyang to “abide by all of its obligations” under the UN resolutions and “refrain from provocations, and engage in substantive dialogue.”
On Myanmar, they expressed “deep concern” over the “grave humanitarian suffering” which pose challenges to regional stability. The Southeast Asian country was the scene of a military coup early last year, followed by mass civil unrest and a crackdown by security forces.
“We continue to call for the immediate end to violence in Myanmar, the release of all political detainees, including foreigners, engagement in constructive dialogue, humanitarian access, and the swift restoration of democracy,” it said, reaffirming its support for efforts to seek a solution in Myanmar led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Quad leaders also asserted that Afghanistan “must never again be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or finance terrorist attacks.”
“We emphasize the importance of upholding international standards on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism by all countries, consistent with FATF (Financial Action Task Force) recommendations,” it added.
– Infrastructure, climate change, cybersecurity
The Quad members also announced $50 billion for infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific region.
To fight climate change, the leaders emphasized that they would “steadfastly implement the Paris Agreement and deliver on the outcomes of COP26.”
Launching the “Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package (Q-CHAMP),” they said “mitigation” and “adaptation” would be its two themes.
On cybersecurity, the members vowed to better protect their countries’ critical infrastructure by sharing threat information, identifying and evaluating potential risks in supply chains for digitally enabled products and services.
They also said they would align “baseline software security standards for government procurement, leveraging our collective purchasing power to improve the broader software development ecosystem so that all users can benefit.”
Advancing interoperability and security through a new Memorandum of Cooperation on 5G Supplier Diversification and Open RAN is also on their agenda, they added.
On cooperation in space-related applications and technologies, the allies “will endeavor to improve public access to Earth observation satellite data and applications,” said the statement.
“We will endeavor to share space-based civil Earth observation data, along with providing a ‘Quad Satellite Data Portal’ that aggregates links to our respective national satellite data resources.”
The Quad also announced a new maritime domain awareness initiative, known as the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA), designed to “work with regional partners to respond to humanitarian and natural disasters, and combat illegal fishing.”