Quad countries must cooperate to protect free international order

China and Russia are both being increasingly assertive in their attempts to change the status quo by force. Japan, the United States, Australia and India need to further unite to protect the free international order.

Foreign ministers from the Quad, a framework for cooperation among the four countries, held a meeting in Melbourne.

It is significant that the major regional democracies confirmed that they will work together in a broader range of fields to achieve the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, following the first in-person Quad summit in September last year.

“I am keenly aware of how important it is for us to cooperate as countries that share basic values,” said Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi during a joint press conference following the meeting with his counterparts.

International affairs have only gotten worse since last autumn. Beijing continues its coercive actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea, while Moscow is applying military pressure on Ukraine, drawing concerns over a possible invasion.

Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics and expressed support for Moscow’s stance on Ukraine. The Chinese president apparently aimed to justify his own country’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo, with the Taiwan Strait and the Senkaku Islands in mind.

Actions by these two countries that apparently threaten the international order should not be ignored. It is natural that at their joint press conference, the Quad foreign ministers stressed the values of freedom and democracy, including the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

During the meeting, Hayashi reportedly expressed concern over China’s hegemonic maritime expansion and pointed out the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. It is essential to seize every opportunity to urge China to act responsibly.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is preoccupied with dealing with the Ukraine crisis. Japan must play a more proactive role in the Quad framework to maintain international rules.

The four countries formally agreed to hold a Quad summit in Japan in the first half of this year. The foreign ministers also expressed their willingness to strengthen cooperation in maritime security and cybersecurity, in addition to providing assistance to developing countries for their novel coronavirus pandemic responses and infrastructure development.

First of all, it is hoped the Quad countries will further accelerate the provision of COVID-19 vaccines for Southeast Asia and elsewhere that they have already started.

According to the foreign ministers, their countries will also cooperate in setting rules on advanced technologies that can be used for military purposes. Japan intends to beef up its economic security by enacting a relevant bill during the current Diet session. It is hoped that the nation will enhance the effectiveness of economic security measures by working together with its partners.

The United States, which remains out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, should expand its involvement in the economic field through the Quad framework.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 12, 2022.