The US has proposed the first summit between the leaders of the “Quad” group, media reports said on Sunday, as the new administration looks to strengthen a framework that some observers believe could develop into a “mini-Nato” designed to counter China’s growing power in the Asia-Pacific.
Washington has already proposed an online meeting with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on Sunday.
Joe Biden’s administration has already said it will build on the previous administration’s work in setting up the group, one of the few Donald Trump policies it has decided to continue.
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National security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that the White House sees the Quad as “fundamental, a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The proposed summit would be the first at the highest level since the Trump administration decided to transform the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” into a mechanism to counter China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region in 2017.
Kyodo reported that the agenda was expected to include talks on ensuring a “free and open Indo-Pacific” amid concerns over China’s activities in the region, such as its building of military infrastructure in disputed areas in the South China Sea.
Chinese diplomatic observers said there were still a number of obstacles to the grouping becoming a full-blown military alliance.
“A Quad summit should not be a surprise – since an Indo-Pacific security alliance against China has been an unchangeable strategy and basic US policy on China,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations specialist from Renmin University in Beijing,
Shi added that the Quad could well grow into a “mini-Nato” after Britain also expressed interest in getting involved.
But it is not certain how far it will develop, especially since India, the only member to share a land border with China, has reservations about the framework and has long maintained a non-aligned stance in diplomacy.
India’s military, which relies heavily on Russian weapons and equipment, will find it harder to integrate smoothly into a US-led defensive pact than Japan or Australia would.
“At the moment India is only a partner to the US, not yet an ally,” said Shi.
But New Delhi’s willingness to side with the US and join the Quad increased greatly after last June’s deadly clash with Chinese troops on their disputed border, he said.
The Quad group had its first foreign ministers’ meeting in New York in 2019, and a second in Tokyo in October last year.
The Japanese foreign ministry has said that Biden and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed during a phone call late last month that they would promote the grouping.
This article How US plans for first Quad summit with leaders of Japan, Australia and India could be first steps towards ‘mini-Nato’ to counter Chinese influence first appeared on South China Morning Post