Japan, U.S. amid global disarray / Tokyo tasked with large role to play in connecting democracies

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, foreground, and U.S. President Joe Biden, left, attend the Quad summit in Tokyo on May 24.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has wrapped up a busy few days for Japanese diplomacy. Kishida met with U.S. President Joe Biden, who was on an official trip to Asia, and hosted a Quad summit with Biden and the leaders of Australia and India. These meetings came as the international order is being shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other events. This is the third and final part of a series exploring some of the challenges confronting Japan.

The Leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India held a summit of the four-country framework known as the Quad at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on May 24. According to a source, when the talks expanded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apparently remarked that a trial must be held as it’s considered a war crime.

India traditionally has deep ties with Russia, as seen in the fact that New Delhi relies on Moscow for about 60% of its military weapons. Precisely because of that, the source said Modi’s words made participants in the summit feel an expectation that India may have begun changing its attitude.

In all public statements from the Quad summit, however, Modi was not quoted as saying anything related to Russia.

Some observers have pointed out India’s shrewdness. India has keenly noticed that Russia has become increasingly isolated from the international community as economic sanctions have been imposed. According to the analysis of a senior official of Japan’s Defense Ministry, “India may be shifting closer to the United States, including on the procurement of weapons.”

The Quad was started when these countries offered disaster relief to victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It has since developed into a strategic framework to counter China, which has made maritime advancements in the East and South China Seas.

Another remarkable point is the Quad’s cooperation in peripheral domains of security affairs, such as semiconductors, 5G communications, outer space and maritime issues.

Following September’s first in-person Quad summit in Washington, this second in-person summit worked as a setting for the leaders to demonstrate their unity.

According to the source, U.S. President Joe Biden repeatedly showed his appreciation of Modi, agreeing often with what the Indian leader said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who arrived at the summit just after his party took over the government, declared, “Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change.”

Summit host Prime Minister Fumio Kishida demonstrated his ability to carefully listen to others’ opinions as he pointed out that there were common points after each of the leaders spoke.

The Quad joint statement mentioned the situation in Ukraine and declared, “Quad leaders reiterated our strong resolve to maintain the peace and stability,” but did not name Russia and did not include any criticism of Moscow.

That the four leaders gathered in Tokyo, however, surely put pressure on Japan’s neighbors China and Russia.

While the United Nations has been in dysfunction, Tokyo has been employing a strategy of placing importance on multilateral frameworks based on the alliance with Washington.

The Japanese government aims to deepen multilayered relationships while collaborating with European nations such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, in addition to Indo-Pacific countries.

A remark Biden made at the summit could indicate the immensity of Japan’s role in connecting with other countries.

“That’s what this is about: democracies versus autocracies,” Biden said. “And we have to make sure we deliver.”