Top diplomats from the Quad nations of Japan, the U.S., Australia and India agreed in Tokyo last week to step up their effort toward a "free and open Indo-Pacific" by collaborating with more countries in the region.
Under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Japan should take the lead in building a stable international order.
FOIP is a multilateral collaborative framework aimed at promoting stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific through democracy and the rule of law. The Quad nations regard the framework as increasingly important as China flexes its growing economic and military might.
After U.S. President Donald Trump contracted the novel coronavirus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled planned trips to Mongolia and South Korea. But he went ahead with his visit to Japan as scheduled, underscoring how important the framework is to the White House.
After the Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Australia joined Japan in pushing the multilateral trade pact.
India, meanwhile, has a long history of neutrality, making its participation in the Quad framework all the more significant.
Though the four nations have separate bilateral alliances, the Quad helps expand the breadth of regional security cooperation, allowing countries to coordinate more efficiently and effectively.
Tokyo's alliance with Washington forms the foundation of Japan's national security policy. But many see the relative national power of the U.S. has been on the decline around the globe and especially in Asia. Tokyo's urgent task therefore is to anchor Washington's interest in Asia, while filling the potential void by building the network of nations that value freedom and the market economy.
Suga will make his first overseas trip as prime minister later this month, visiting Vietnam and Indonesia. Backed by the Quad, Japan's attempts to join hands with governments across Southeast Asia and Europe will carry more weight.
Pompeo told Nikkei in an Oct. 6 interview in Tokyo: "Once we've institutionalized what we're doing, the four of us together, we can begin to build out a true security framework." The secretary of state not only agreed with the other foreign ministers to hold regular meetings but also embraced the idea of turning the Quad into what could be called a quasi-alliance framework.
Pompeo's remark was clearly backed by the growing bipartisan anti-China sentiment in the U.S.
Given that the Trump administration has tended to resort to unilateral if not bilateral measures, Pompeo's multilateral approach, albeit through a coalition of the willing, is a welcome sign.
With China trying to leverage its might to alter maritime rules and regional order, it is crucial that the Quad nations jointly and relentlessly demand Beijing that it behave in a responsible manner befitting of a major power.