Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Yuasa

【#713】Ripe for Upgrading “Quad” Dialogue

Hiroshi Yuasa / 2020.09.01 (Tue)

August 31, 2020


Political vacuums in Japan and the United States due to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resignation and approaching U.S. presidential election could stimulate expansionist China’s territorial ambitions. This is because China has remarkably intensified military activities against neighboring countries to conceal its weakness as the origin of the novel coronavirus pandemic that spread from the southern Chinese city of Wuhan. The time is ripe for upgrading and expanding the Japan-U.S.-Australia-India quadrilateral security dialogue, the core of which is the Japan-U.S. alliance, in order to develop a coalition against China.

Avoid power vacuums while facing China

The Chinese Communist Party has infringed interests of other countries in the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas and repeated skirmishes with India. While the U.S. is plagued with the pandemic, China might have found a strategic opportunity and lost self-control.

Over the past month, China conducted a series of military exercises at its coastal sea areas from the Bohai Bay to the South China Sea. It fired total 4 shots of DF21D “carrier-killer” and DF26 “Guam killer” ballistic missiles to the South China Sea, as a demonstration to show its readiness to attack U.S. aircraft carriers and the major U.S. military base.

These activities have led the international community to find China’s imperialistic ambitions. Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono’s meeting with his U.S. counterpart Mike Esper in Guam on August 29 demonstrated the two countries’ determination to prevent political vacuums from becoming power vacuums.

It was fortunate for Japan to postpone Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan this year due to the pandemic. Japan is now ready to begin cooperation with the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance led by the U.S. and Britain.

The hitherto loose quadrilateral framework may be ready to be upgraded as Australia and India dispelled their each other’s resentment in June. U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has revealed plans to hold quadrilateral ministerial talks in September and October. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly intends to invite Australia to join the Japan-U.S.-India Malabar annual naval exercise in the second half of this year. If Australia joins the exercise, the quadrilateral unity would be enhanced.

Southeast Asian countries hold the key

If regional countries like Vietnam and Indonesia as well as Taiwan can join the quadrilateral framework, the coalition to deter China would be further strengthened. The point is whether the Quad can draw in Southeast Asian coastal countries that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. In fact, China’s aggressive behaviors have awakened the sense of crisis among these countries. Over the past several months, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia have reversed their vague attitude toward China, complaining that China’s insistence to monopolize the South China Sea would conflict with a ruling by the arbitral tribunal in 2016 that denied China’s territorial rights in the South China Sea.

If China amounts to European totalitarian states in the 1930s, coastal countries in the South China Sea should not be able to sit on the sidelines of U.S.-China confrontation. In the early stage of World War II, Nazi Germany attacked Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands even when they declared neutrality. Had the neutral countries chosen to fight with Britain and France against Nazi Germany, they might not have been overrun so miserably. Southeast Asian littoral countries should learn lessons from the episode.

Hiroshi Yuasa is a Planning Committee member and a senior fellow at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a columnist for the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.