The Quad Is Getting More Ambitious in the Indo-Pacific

In Brief

The Quad Is Getting More Ambitious in the Indo-Pacific

The leaders of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan held their fourth Quad meeting in May. After a year dedicated to fighting the pandemic, here’s what they pledged to take on next.

What did the latest Quad summit accomplish?

In a joint statement from the Quad summit hosted by Japan in May 2022, the leaders of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan reemphasized the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific: freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The meeting also appeared to reinforce a central purpose of the Quad—to provide the region with public goods.

More From Our Experts

Last year, pandemic assistance ranked at the top of the Quad’s priorities. Reporting on that effort, the Quad partners said they’ve contributed $5.2 billion to the COVAX initiative, or around 40 percent of total government donations received by the global vaccine fund. The Quad countries together delivered over 670 million vaccine doses, of which at least 265 million were to countries in the Indo-Pacific. 

More on:

Indo-Pacific

Asia

Japan

United States

Australia

Looking ahead, the leaders announced a series of new initiatives designed to deepen cooperation across the region, including a new Quad fellowship for STEM research. Perhaps the most practical initiative announced was the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, which aims to help combat illegal fishing as well as respond to humanitarian and natural disasters by improving technology and training. This should provide much-needed assistance to nations in this huge maritime region. 

Other Quad priorities include meeting the Indo-Pacific’s infrastructure needs, crafting a new Quad Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Package, and building cybersecurity capacity. However, still unknown is the timeframe for achieving these goals and who will provide the resources required to do so.

How did the Quad address China?

The Quad leaders emphasized their shared values, including support for dispute settlement over the use of force and opposition to any unilateral attempt to change the status quo. Though they did not name China, repeated references to these principles of regionalism demonstrate their concern that China is seeking to challenge claims to maritime boundaries and to islands in both the East and South China Seas. Similarly, a reference to the principle of freedom of navigation and overflight pushes back against China’s growing assertion on its right to control maritime and airspace claimed by its neighbors.

More From Our Experts

They also spoke to their “resolve to uphold the international rules-based order where countries are free from all forms of military, economic, and political coercion.” Here again the inference is to China’s growing use of its economic might to achieve political gains. Australia, India, and Japan have all felt China’s recent coercive pressures. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stand next to each other.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Quad summit in Tokyo. Yuichi Yamazaki/Reuters

The Quad statement did not mention Taiwan, even after U.S. President Joe Biden said a day earlier that the United States is bound to come to Taiwan’s defense. (U.S. officials later walked back Biden’s statement.) The Quad partners have different stakes on the Taiwan issue. Japan has the biggest risk, given its proximity to Taiwan and its alliance with the United States. Many in Tokyo seemed to welcome U.S. clarity; it remains to be seen whether Australia shares that view. India would most likely avoid risking its security interests with any engagement on the Taiwan issue.

More on:

Indo-Pacific

Asia

Japan

United States

Australia

Before the gathering, China noted its displeasure about Japan’s role in the Quad. In a video call on May 18, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned his counterpart, Hayashi Yoshimasa, that Japan should not align itself with the United States and others in ways that could damage Chinese “sovereignty, security and interests.” On the day of the Quad meeting, China and Russia teamed up to demonstrate their displeasure: six Chinese and Russian strategic bombers, accompanied by surveillance aircraft, flew around Japanese territory. Growing military cooperation between China and Russia is putting pressure on Japan’s defenses.

Did the Quad leaders condemn Russian aggression against Ukraine?

No. An unscheduled Quad summit was held virtually on March 3, after the Russian invasion, but they didn’t reach a consensus. New Delhi has not been willing to condemn Moscow, either at the United Nations or unilaterally, largely due to its long-standing military relationship with Russia. The other three Quad members have spoken out in various ways and have all sanctioned Russia. At this meeting in Tokyo, the leaders reportedly discussed their responses to the conflict but stopped short of condemning Russia’s invasion.

What’s next for the Quad? 

The meeting underscored all four members’ commitment to the Quad despite domestic political changes. New prime ministers have taken office in Australia and Japan since the first leaders’ summit, which was held virtually in March 2021. Yet, support for the Quad remains strong. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida enthusiastically welcomed his Quad partners to Tokyo, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese boarded a plane to attend the meeting just hours after being sworn into office. He said he looks forward to welcoming his Quad partners to Australia for next year’s summit.

In Tokyo, the Quad leaders outlined an ambitious agenda for the next year; 2023 should reveal how successful they’ve been in pooling their resources to meet those goals.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons: Some rights reserved.
Close
This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License.
View License Detail
Close

Top Stories on CFR

COVID-19

Government leaders are optimistic that COVID-19 is becoming endemic, meaning more predictable and manageable. But many scientists say it’s too soon to behave like the pandemic is over.

Climate Change

The UN climate summit delivered on a loss and damage fund, but it fell short on goals to reduce emissions and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Malaysia

Malaysia's voters delivered an inconclusive message in the general election, leading to a hung parliament.