US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Toyko on Tuesday to meet with some of Washington’s closest allies in Asia, Japan, Australia and India and to step up support against China’s dangerous and growing regional influence.
The visit, which was supposed to include trips to Mongolia and South Korea, was canceled after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s Pompeo’s first trip to East Asia since July 2019, and the connections between the United States and strategic rival China are worst in decades.
The one-day visit includes a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Quad Group of Nations: USA, Australia, India and Japan.
While Washington has sought to build support among Asian allies against Beijing, analysts have said that China’s neighbors want to avoid direct confrontation over economic ties.
After a meeting between Pompeo and his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, the US State Department said the two were discussing concerns over China’s regional “malicious activity” – a language likely to elicit a response from Beijing.
“The secretary and foreign minister also discussed their shared concerns about the malicious activities of the People’s Republic of China in the region,” a State Department official said in the statement.
However, China was not even mentioned in Payne’s statement.
“Whether it’s individual human rights, market-based economies, combating disinformation or building greater resilience in our supply chains, our shared values and interests mean we share a vision for a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” she said on social issues media.
When Pompeo met Japan’s Foreign Minister, he said the new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, was a “force for good” and would strengthen Washington-Tokyo relations. He was supposed to meet Suga later on Tuesday.
China has denounced the quad as an attempt to contain its development.
The quad meeting is unlikely to produce a concrete plan of action, although the assembly itself could serve as a warning to China and play off its fears that the group might one day become a formalized structure like NATO, experts have said.
Washington and Beijing, the world‘s two largest economies, are at odds on a myriad of issues, from Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus to the introduction of a new security law in Hong Kong and ambitions in the South China Sea.
Most Asian allies have been satisfied with Washington’s hardship on their regional rival China, but have not so eagerly welcomed the highly charged rhetoric of Trump and Pompeo recently and remain cautious about fighting China too far.
Part of the problem for Washington’s Asian allies is their reliance on China for trade. China was the main destination for Australian exports in 2019, destination No. 2 for Japanese exports and destination No. 3 for Indian exports, according to the IMF trade statistics compiled by Refinitiv.
Japan told the United States it wants to deepen cybersecurity cooperation, according to a statement from the Tokyo State Department.
The United States has said it appreciates the Quad Group of Foreign Ministers meeting as a platform to strengthen its solidarity with China with regional allies.
“We’re hoping for some major announcements and successes,” Pompeo told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in the US before leaving for Tokyo, but declined to say what they would be.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)