Mon. Jan 18th, 2021

TOKYO — A senior U.S. State Department official said the informal security grouping of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India known as “the Quad,” may welcome new members in the future as the countries look to counter China’s growing influence.

Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, on Saturday said the four countries share the same values and interests. Once the group determines its policy direction, it will not exclude other countries, he added.

Knapper was speaking at the Mount Fuji Dialogue, an annual gathering of business and political leaders from Japan and the U.S.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a video message to the gathering that it is important to strengthen the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. alliance to ensure the security of Japan and the surrounding area.

Suga’s defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, said in a video message that China is greatly raising the quality and quantity of its military power, rapidly and without transparency. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi also pointed out that the balance of power is shifting drastically in the Indo-Pacific region.

Katsutoshi Kawano, former chief of the joint staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, said it is “important for Japan, the U.S., Australia and India to lead in order to protect freedom of the seas in the Indo-Pacific.” China’s recent border clash with India and escalating tensions with Australia over its response to the coronavirus resulted in Quad members strengthening their cooperation, Kawano said. It remains unclear whether other Asian countries will join the group.

Kenichiro Sasae, president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs, said countries “wouldn’t want to be bullied by China.” Adm. Philip Davidson, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said it is necessary not only to have missile defense and naval and air force capabilities, but also to develop capabilities in space and cybersecurity to counter China.

By Bureau