Cracks show fragility of US’ quest in Asia

Divisions at Quad, with India neutral on Russia, highlight Biden's uphill task

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Japan-US-Australia-India Fellowship Founding Celebration event, in Tokyo, Japan, May 24, 2022. (YUICHI YAMAZAKI / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)

Despite his efforts to foster unity abroad, United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday saw cracks emerge even before he left talks with Asian security partners in Tokyo on Tuesday as India stands apart from the condemnation of Russia by other members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad.

On Tuesday, Quad leaders held a second in-person meeting, in Tokyo, since its rehashed launch in 2017. Biden spent most of his time talking about Russia's military operation in Ukraine before the closed-door meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Australia's new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Relevant countries should not be biased, make groundless accusations against China, start small cliques or incite bloc confrontations.

Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman

Biden and Kishida both took note of the situation in Ukraine while Modi used his opening comments to praise the Quad's influence and describe his country's work on COVID-19 and other issues.

However, the four countries did achieve an agreement to set up a satellite-based initiative to monitor ships in the Indo-Pacific region. Many believe the move is designed to deter China's fishing boats, as the group said it was concerned about the so-called challenges to international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

In response, Beijing said the Quad is making groundless accusations because China always upholds the international order based on international law.

"Relevant countries should not be biased, make groundless accusations against China, start small cliques or incite bloc confrontations. That will be a true threat to peace, stability, and cooperation in maritime order," said Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Masanari Koike, a former member of Japan's House of Representatives, said the Quad statement showed Washington's strong belief that the United Nations and other international organizations no longer suit its version of "regional stability".

'Fragile and inconsistent'

"It is obvious that the US aims to increase its regional involvement and deterrence capacity over China. And given that Australia and Japan are already allies of the US that Washington can share intelligence with", it is important for the US to see the extent of India's commitment and "what New Delhi is going to offer", Koike said.

Liu Yuanling, a researcher in the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that anti-China sentiment forms the glue that binds the Quad countries, but the group itself is not as cohesive as its leaders have touted.

"India's unwillingness to follow the West's suit to sanction Russia sends a message that it is in fact, fragile and inconsistent," she said.

Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.

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