Leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India gathered in Tokyo on Tuesday for a meeting of the group known as the “Quad.”
The issues of American support for Taiwan and Russia’s war in Ukraine have gained attention recently. So did China’s militarization in the disputed South China Sea and Australia’s nuclear submarine program.
But what is the group and what is the importance of the partnership?
What is the quad?
The name “quad” comes from the official name of the group: The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
The Quad began as a loose partnership after the extremely destructive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. At that time, the four countries joined together to provide humanitarian and disaster aid to the affected area including Indonesia and several other countries.
But the group was formalized by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. The group did little for nearly 10 years. This was partly because of Australian concerns that its membership in the group would anger China.
The group was resurrected in 2017, reflecting changing ideas in Asia about China’s growing influence. The administrations of both former U.S. President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden believe the Quad is important to placing more attention on the Indo-Pacific area, especially to balance China’s actions. The Quad leaders held their first official meeting of top leaders in 2021. They met again by video link in March.
Not really like NATO
China has criticized the group as an attempt at forming an “Asian NATO.” However, the group is unlike the European military alliance, or North Atlantic Treaty Organization, because there is no mutual-defense agreement in effect.
Quad members say the group is meant to deepen economic, diplomatic and military ties among the four countries. The members do not state that their partnership is meant to be a defense alliance against Chinese aggression.
In March 2021, members released a declaration describing the “Spirit of the Quad.” The leaders said they aim to establish the Indo-Pacific as an area “that is free, open, inclusive, healthy anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.”
Coercion describes causing a country to do something using force or threats.
Who are the leaders?
Tuesday’s meeting marks the first in-person gathering of the group for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Kishida took office last October. The meeting also provides an introduction for Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese. He was sworn in on Monday, just two days after Australia’s parliamentary election.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also attending. Modi is facing increasing international pressure over several issues.
His government’s policies toward minorities have been criticized. India increased its purchases of Russian energy supplies after Russia invaded Ukraine. Other quad members have placed strong restrictions on Russia’s economy.
And India has banned wheat exports at a time when world wheat supplies have been sharply reduced because of Russia’s war. Indian officials blame hot spring weather, which led to a poor harvest for cutting exports.
South Korea has expressed interest in joining the Quad. U.S. officials have said they are not currently considering adding to the group’s membership. The group has held “Quad-plus” meetings that have included South Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam. These nations could form the basis for future expansion or partnership in the Indo-Pacific.
An unusual name
The name Quad comes from the word Quadrilateral in the official name of the organization. Quadrilateral means “four-sided.” In addition to the shortened form, diplomats like to shorten long organization names with acronyms which use the first letters of words.
So, the new Australia-United Kingdom (Britain)-U.S. alliance is called AUKUS. Another acronym that got attention this week while Biden was in Asia: IPEF, short for the U.S.-proposed trade agreement called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English.
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Words in This Story
formalize –v. to make something official
resurrected –adj. the return to life of something that has fallen into disuse or has been forgotten
anchored –adj. solidly based and supported
unconstrained –adj. not held back or restricted in any way