Use agreement reached by Quad leaders to realize regional stability

It is highly significant that the leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India, which share such values as democracy and rule of law, have agreed to tackle various problems that the world is facing.

The four countries should work together to solve issues in the international community, not only those involving security but also in consumer-related fields.

In the first summit talks held among the four countries, which took place online, their leaders confirmed that they would promote the distribution of novel coronavirus vaccines to developing countries. They also agreed to cooperate in the field of maritime security, toward the realization of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The four leaders worked out a joint statement and put forward a plan to set up working groups related to the three fields of vaccine assistance, climate change, and critical and emerging technology.

The diplomatic war over vaccines is intensifying. China is eager to assist countries in Asia and Africa with its domestically produced vaccines. India, which is said to account for 60% of global vaccine production, is also supporting developing countries.

Japan appears to intend to help India expand its production capability via government loans.

Unless COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed in developing countries, the global spread of the infection cannot be stopped. Japan and other leading countries need to focus on fair distribution of the vaccines while utilizing the framework created under the United Nations’ initiative.

It is also important for the four nations to deepen their cooperation on security. In November last year, the Maritime Self-Defense Force held joint exercises off India with the navies of the United States, Australia and India for the first time in 13 years. Trusting relations must further be deepened through active exchanges among uniformed officers.

The four countries have repeatedly held meetings of bureau chiefs and foreign ministers. India, which has a policy of nonalignment, was initially reluctant to hold a summit meeting, but it accepted the strong request of the United States.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden calls the four countries’ relationship the Quad and has positioned it as the core of its Indo-Pacific policy. In the summit talks, the four leaders agreed to meet in-person within this year. It is essential to hold close discussions to promote regional stability.

China has clashed with India along their border and has unilaterally imposed retaliatory tariffs against Australia. Around the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, China Coast Guard vessels repeatedly enter the territorial waters of Japan.

This kind of behavior has prompted the cooperation among the four nations, which share such principles as freedom, democracy and maintaining order under international law. China has criticized their actions as enclosing China, but it must become aware that its hegemonic acts are problematic.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is said to be planning to visit the United States in April to meet with Biden. How will Japan promote international collaboration and security cooperation? The specific measures taken by Japan will be subject to scrutiny. Japan is urged to carry out strategic diplomacy.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 14, 2021.