A long-anticipated hawkish turn in American strategy directed at the region around China — what Trump administration officials call the “Indo-Pacific,” because it sounds less Chinese than “Asia-Pacific” — may finally be materializing.
A central part of the new strategy involves the “Quad,” short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a grouping of the U.S., Australia, Japan, and India, which has been in existence since 2007 but had not met for many years until last November.
- President Trump will meet with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as he visits Washington for three days starting today, and a “rejuvenated” and “expanded” Quad will be “a key element of talks,” the Guardian reports.
- A senior U.S. official confirmed that a joint infrastructure plan among the Quad is also under serious discussion, though the official said that talks were still “nascent” and “won’t be ripe enough to be announced” during Turnbull’s visit, according to (paywall) the Australian Financial Review.
- “No one is saying China should not build infrastructure,” the official said, while adding that the Quad’s plan could provide an “alternative” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
- “It is not the case that this is to counter China’s Belt and Road,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, but Reuters notes that Japan already has this interest: The country’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” which was announced last year, aimed in part to promote “high-quality infrastructure,” and was “endorsed by Washington and is also seen as a counter to the Belt and Road Initiative.”
- Meanwhile, Harry Harris, the U.S. Navy admiral known for taking a tough line on Beijing and recently nominated to become the American ambassador to Australia, commented last week that “China’s intent is crystal clear” to dominate the South China Sea. “We ignore it at our peril…I’m concerned China will now work to undermine the international rules-based order,” he added, according to the Guardian.