World

Pompeo: Indo-Pacific cooperation against China more critical than ever

TOKYO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was more critical now than ever for the regional allies in the Indo-Pacific to collaborate against what he called the Chinese Communist Party's "exploitation, coercion and corruption".

Speaking at the start of a Quad meeting, a gathering of the foreign ministers of the US, Australia, India, and Japan, Mr Pompeo said yesterday that all the partners were seeking a free and open Indo-Pacific.

His first meeting was with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in which they "discussed their shared concerns regarding China's malign activity in the region", a US State Department official said.

The talks in Tokyo come with the United States, Australia and India all at loggerheads with Beijing - leaving Japan in the delicate position of standing alongside its allies while attempting to preserve gradually improving ties with China.

Mr Pompeo is the first senior US official to visit Japan since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office last month, and he said he was confident both nations were on the same page.

"In his first statement after assuming office, Prime Minister Suga described the free and open Indo-Pacific as 'the foundation of regional peace and stability'. I could not agree more," he said at the start of talks with his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi.

Speaking later, Mr Suga said the spread of the coronavirus had shown "exactly why right now is the time that we must further deepen coordination with as many countries as possible that share our vision and build our efforts to enhance cooperation".

China has made no secret of its view on the Quad, with its Foreign Ministry last week urging countries to avoid "closed and exclusive 'cliques'".

"We hope the relevant countries can proceed from the common interests of countries in the region, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace, stability and development, not the other way around," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

The first Quad meeting took place in New York last year, and there are moves to make the gathering an annual event.

Mr Pompeo was later headed back to Washington. Planned stops in South Korea and Mongolia have been scrapped. - AFP, REUTERS

WORLD