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Pompeo Rallies Alliance of Nations Against Growing Chinese Aggression

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that China’s increasingly aggressive actions across the region make it more critical than ever for four Indo-Pacific nations known as the Quad to cooperate to fight Chinese “exploitation, corruption and coercion.”

Pompeo made the remark at a meeting in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of Japan, India and Australia, who together make up the Quad.

Pompeo accused China of covering up the coronavirus pandemic and worsening it, while threatening freedom and democracy in the region.

“It is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the Chinese Communist Party’s exploitation, corruption and coercion,” Pompeo said.

The talks came amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic, trade, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan and human rights.

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They follow a recent flareup in tensions between China and India over their disputed Himalayan border, while relations between Australia and China have also deteriorated in recent months.

Japan, meanwhile, is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.

Japan also considers China’s growing military activity to be a security threat.

Japan’s annual defense policy paper in July accused China of unilaterally changing the status quo in the South China Sea, where it has built and militarized manmade islands and is assertively pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways.

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China has denied allegations of covering up the pandemic, saying it acted quickly to provide information to the World Health Organization and the world. It says the U.S. is the biggest aggressor in the South China Sea.

Beijing also denies human rights violations in its handling of Hong Kong and minority Muslims in Xinjiang, and accuses Western nations of meddling in its internal affairs.

Earlier Tuesday, new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a meeting with the Quad diplomats that their “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” security and economic initiative is more important than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The international community faces multiple challenges as it tries to resolve the pandemic, and “this is exactly why right now it is time that we should further deepen coordination with as many countries as possible that share our vision,” Suga said, without directly criticizing China.

Suga took office on Sept. 16, vowing to carry on predecessor Shinzo Abe’s tough security and diplomatic stance. Abe was a key driving force behind the FOIP initiative, which Suga called “a vision of peace and prosperity of this region” and pledged to pursue.

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Japan and the U.S. have been pushing the FOIP as a way to bring together “like-minded” countries that share concerns about China’s growing aggressiveness and influence.

Pompeo, as well as Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and their Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, held talks after meeting with Suga together.

Pompeo earlier met one-on-one with his three counterparts, meetings which reaffirmed the importance of cooperation among them to advance peace, prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific, according to the State Department.

Pompeo in his talks with Payne shared concerns about “China’s malign activity in the region.”

Motegi held a lunch with Pompeo in which the Japanese minister said he expressed hope that Japan and the U.S. will lead the international community to achieve the FOIP goals.

Pompeo attended the Quad meeting, but canceled subsequent planned visits to South Korea and Mongolia after President Donald Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19. The president was released Monday and returned to the White House.

Pompeo was the only one who explicitly criticized China in opening remarks at the Quad meeting.

Motegi said after the talks that the Quad members agreed to meet regularly and cooperate in infrastructure building, maritime security, cybersecurity and other areas, and exchange views on the situation in regional seas.

Motegi said he proposed to other ministers that the Quad should broaden its cooperation with other countries.

Suga, who had been chief Cabinet secretary under Abe, told Japanese media on Monday that he will pursue diplomacy based on the cornerstone of the Japan-U.S. alliance and “strategically promote the FOIP,” while establishing stable relations with neighbors including China and Russia.

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