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Concerns about China’s ‘gross aggression’ shared across Quad: U.S. officials

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (second left) speaks to Japan Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (second right) External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (right) and Australia Foreign Minister Marise Payne (left) during the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) ministerial meeting in Tokyo, Japan on October 6, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

A senior State Department official cited ‘sudden’ and “gross aggression” by China as a concern of the Quad, in response to a question on whether Quad members other than the U.S. were less “forward-leaning” on countering the Chinese threat, and whether the U.S. risked alienating the other three countries with its emphasis on China.

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“No. That is the concern. I mean, if you look at the conflict on the — in the Himalayas between China and India, something that has been in the past handled according to unspoken or unwritten rules in the past to prevent these things from getting out of control, and then you look at what happened here recently, where you’ve got actually people beating each other to death — no,” the official said.

“… If you look at the single thing that’s driving all this, it’s a sudden turn toward gross aggression by the Chinese government in its entire periphery. I mean, you take it all the way around the Indo-Pacific and its western borders; you’re seeing things that you haven’t seen before, and these are responding to that,” the official said.

Later, the official reiterated that it was not “not just the U.S. dragging folks [ i.e., India, Australia, Japan] who are maybe unwilling or hesitant to” take on the challenges that China was posing. “Everybody likeminded is looking at erosion of democracy, of free market economy and all that, and they’re taking action.”

Also read: U.S. rejects China's claims in South China Sea

The comments, transcripts of which were released by the State Department, were made on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s aircraft en route to Anchorage, from Japan, where Mr. Pompeo had met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi of Japan and Marise Payne of Australia for the second “Quad” Minister-level meeting. In Tokyo, Mr. Pompeo had said it was ‘critical’ for Quad partners to “collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] exploitation, corruption, and coercion,” in various geographies including the Himalayas.

“But we also have to frame the problem correctly. This isn’t about a U.S.-China dispute. This is about the free world versus Chinese authoritarianism,” a second senior State Department official said.

Results oriented multilateralism

Asked on speculation by analysts that the Quad sounded like an “Asian NATO”, the first official said looking at the language underpinning the framework of cooperation was on the to-do list for the countries.

Comment | Why China is being aggressive along the LAC

“Well, I mean, one of the projects out of this is to think through what those people sort of balk at: hard, specific language here. Yet nonetheless, as I said, the value set, the worldview and all those things, set up a number of follow-on activities that we can — that we can move out with. I mean, one of those is just simple freedom of movement and navigation.”

“The Secretary [Mr. Pompeo] did say earlier today that he would move to institutionalise the framework. But in terms of what does this kind of multilateralism look like, the Secretary has talked at length about results-oriented multilateralism, about … voluntary groupings of likeminded nations who…share common values of democracy, the rule of law, a respect for human rights and individual freedom,” the second official said.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 2:46:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/concerns-about-chinas-gross-aggression-shared-across-quad-us-officials/article32796337.ece

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