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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (REUTERS)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (REUTERS)

Mike Pompeo to attend second meeting of Quad grouping in Tokyo

  • The Tokyo meeting of the so-called Quad group of countries – US, Japan, Australia and India – will be the second in the series after one hosted by Pompeo in Washington last year

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will attend the second meeting of the “Quad" group of countries in Tokyo this week, the US State Department confirmed in a statement overnight Sunday following doubts over his travel after President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will travel to Tokyo, Japan on October 4 to 6," the US statement said, adding “Planned meetings with the Quad Foreign Ministers in Tokyo will focus on pressing issues of the Indo-Pacific region."

“Secretary Pompeo expects to be traveling to Asia again in October and will work to reschedule visits on that trip, that is now just a few weeks off," it said referring to visits to South Korea and Mongolia that have now been deferred.

The schedule change comes as Trump is hospitalized in Washington after he tested covid-19 positive on Thursday.

"We're still planning on making the trips, but we're going to take a look at them," Pompeo had said when asked about any possible changes in his Asia itinerary on Friday. “We'll see which one -- see which or some parts of those trips make sense and which may not, and we'll continue to on an hour-by-hour basis take a look at it," he had said.

The Tokyo meeting of the so-called “Quad" group of countries – US, Japan, Australia and India – will be the second in the series after one hosted by Pompeo in Washington last year in September.

On the agenda of the Tokyo meet is a discussion of the post covid-19 international order and tensions in the Indo-Pacific region due to China. For India, the meeting comes amid heightened tensions with China on the border that looks to stretch into the winter months with tens of thousands of troops of both countries ranged against each other. China has also been flexing its military muscles in the seas-- holding five military exercises simultaneously along different parts of its coast and ratcheting up tensions in the region.

According to an Indian foreign ministry statement issued last week, besides the “post-covid-19 international order and the need for a coordinated response to the various challenges emerging from the pandemic," the four ministers will also discuss regional issues and “collectively affirm the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific." Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar will hold bilateral consultations with Australian foreign minister Marise Payne, Pompeo and his host Japanese Motegi Toshimitsu. Jaishankar may also call on the new Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga.

All four countries of the Quad have problems with China and view Beijing’s conduct with suspicion. Besides India’s ongoing military standoff with China in Ladakh, Australia has testy relations with China over the origins and spread of the covid-19 pandemic while Japan has concerns over Chinese intrusions near the Senkaku Islands. The US has been engaged in a war of words with China over the pandemic as well as on outstanding trade issues with Beijing.

India, Australia and Japan recently held talks on alternative supply chains to counter China’s dominance against the backdrop of countries looking for alternatives to Beijing amid the pandemic. The three countries are discussing building a “supply chain resilience initiative," and held their first meeting on the subject earlier this month.

Besides this, New Delhi has in recent months signed logistics support pacts with Australia and Japan. It has robust defence partnership with the US. Last month, in a first, a United States' long-range maritime patrol aircraft refuelled at India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands. The “fully armed" P-8 Poseidon aircraft landed in Port Blair for logistics and refuelling support, a person familiar with the matter said on Saturday. India and the US have been providing their naval vessels with refuelling support since the two countries signed a logistics support pact in 2016. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) provides India with similar access to US bases from Djibouti in Africa to Guam in the Pacific.

Last month, the US signed a framework pact for defence cooperation with the Maldives was seen as an effort to strengthen alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter China. Indian foreign minister Jaishankar, at a seminar on India-Japan relations earlier this month, said New Delhi was looking to cooperate with Japan on projects in Bangladesh and Myanmar as part of their efforts to work together in third countries. The Indian foreign ministry has set up a new "Oceania" division to coordinate strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. The desk is headed by an additional secretary rank officer and two senior director level officers besides others.

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