Foreign ministers of the Quad group of countries brought together to stand up to China in Asia, have said that democracy must be restored quickly in Myanmar, Japan’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia met virtually for the first time under the Biden administration and discussed Myanmar, the pandemic, climate, and Indo-Pacific territorial and navigation issues, the US State Department said in a statement reported by CNN.
“We’ve all agreed on the need to swiftly restore the democratic system in Myanmar,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.
The four countries reiterated a commitment for the Quad to meet at least annually at ministerial levels and regularly at senior and working levels “to strengthen cooperation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation and territorial integrity.”
“These discussions with the Quad foreign ministers are critical to advancing our shared goals of a free and open Indo-Pacific and rising to the defining challenges of our times,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
President Joe Biden has said working closely with allies will be key to his strategy toward China, in which he has said the US will aim to “out-compete” Beijing.
Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed in a telephone call last week to strengthen Indo-Pacific security through the Quad.
The Quad members are concerned about China’s extensive maritime claims in Asia, including in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established military outposts in disputed waters. In the East China Sea, China claims a group of uninhabited islets administered by Japan, a dispute that has plagued bilateral relations for years.
Launched in 2007, the Quad was an idea of Japan’s then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was eager to find partners to balance a rising China.
While Australia and India had initially been cautious about antagonising China, the Quad format has expanded in recent years as both nations’ relationships deteriorate with Beijing.
The Quad nations in November held four-way naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, with Australia participating for the first time.
China’s state-run Global Times earlier this month warned Biden that renewing the Quad would be a “serious strategic blunder”, saying he may trigger “a severe strategic confrontation” with Beijing by trying to prevent its dominance.