Quad important for free and open Indo-Pacific: Japan PM Kishida

The four-nation Quad grouping of the US, India, Japan and Australia is playing an important role in promoting a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said here on Friday, urging the like-minded countries to increase their investment in the strategically vital region, amid China’s growing assertiveness.

Kishida arrived in Singapore on Friday to deliver the keynote speech at Asia’s premier defence conclave, the Shangri-La Dialogue.

He said the leaders of the Quad or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in their recent meeting in Tokyo in May pledged to spend more than USD 50 billion on infrastructure assistance and investment in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years which will be essential for promoting prosperity in the region.

“In addition to the ASEAN and Pacific countries, Japan, Australia, India and the United States, also known as QUAD, are playing an important role in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kishida said.

“It is also important for like-minded countries to work together to increase the investment in resources in this region,” he said, as he called for economic and security cooperation.

The Quad leaders launched a major new initiative for the Indo-Pacific in May that allows the partner countries to fully monitor the waters on their shores and help ensure peace and stability in the region, a move that comes amid China’s increasingly intimidatory behaviour.

The announcement on the rollout of the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) came at the end of the second in-person Quad summit attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.

A joint statement by the four leaders said the IPMDA will support and work in consultation with Indo-Pacific nations and regional information fusion centres in the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands by providing technology and training to support shared maritime domain awareness to promote stability and prosperity.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and vowed to work “tirelessly to deliver tangible results” for the region.

The Japanese prime minister in his keynote speech spoke about the ‘Kishida Vision for Peace’ to strengthen Japan’s diplomacy and security.

He pledged to raise the defence spending over the next five years in the wake of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and China’s posture in the region.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military manoeuvring in the resource-rich region.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea. China also has territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea.

The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade.

Although the US lays no claims to the disputed waters, it has challenged China’s growing territorial claims in the South China Sea by deploying warships and fighter jets to assert freedom of navigation and overflight patrols in the strategically vital region.

Kishida also assured support to Asian countries, including the supply of patrol boats to Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands as part of assistance for maritime security.

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