QUAD FMs’ joint statement hypes ‘China threats’ with clichés; US pandering to India's position on Ukraine crisis ‘may disappoint European allies’
Published: Mar 03, 2023 10:03 PM
Quad Ministers' panel in New Delhi on March 3, 2023 Photo: VCG

Quad Ministers' panel in New Delhi on March 3, 2023 Photo: VCG

The foreign ministers of QUAD countries met on Friday and reaffirmed the grouping's commitment for a "free and open Indo-Pacific," releasing an 18-point joint statement that analysts viewed as lousy clichés with a confrontational mentality, as it singled out Russia and North Korea on regional security issues and played up the "China threat" in a subtle and veiled way.

Considering that no joint statement was reached at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting (FMM) one day earlier, Chinese experts said the QUAD's joint statement further demonstrated that the US has lost patience and confidence in being able to lead the multilateral platform and make use of it.

Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong attended the talks held in New Delhi. Indian media said they were the first talks since they met in September 2022 in New York.

In the joint statement, the four ministers reaffirmed the Quad's steadfast commitment to supporting "a free and open Indo-Pacific," a term linked with the US' "Indo-Pacific strategy," which aims to contain China. 

In the joint statement, QUAD ministers mentioned "challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas."

We always believe that cooperation between countries should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and should not be confined to exclusive "small cliques," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. 

"We hope the relevant countries will do more to enhance security and mutual trust among regional countries and safeguard regional peace and stability," Mao said at a press briefing on Friday. 

Zhu Feng, executive dean of the School of International Studies under Nanjing University, told the Global Times that the tone of the QUAD Foreign Ministers' meeting has not changed much from its previous meetings, and there are fewer surprises.

Even with the ongoing EU-Ukraine military conflict in Europe, the Indo-Pacific region remains the focus of the US global security strategy, Zhu said. "It is provocative for the US to use the South China Sea and the East China Sea, which have a bearing on China's surrounding security issues, as a way to woo allies and suppress China."

Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believed that the joint statement looks like an "improvised document" to highlight the QUAD's role after the G20 FMM's failure to reach consensus on a joint statement, as it touches on many of the G20 FMM's concerns.

According to the statement, QUAD members "oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo," and seek cooperation on health security, climate change and the clean energy transition, infrastructure and connectivity, space, cyber-security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security and counter-terrorism. 

Lü told the Global Times that the document was more of a US compensation to India, the host of the G20 FMM. And India, which has a complex relationship with Russia, has shown major divergences with the US in its stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The joint statement, which is full of clichés, is nuanced in its references to the Ukraine crisis, using the term "conflict" rather than "invasion," which the US always uses.

From the standpoint of the US, this is a huge step backwards, said Lü. "Pandering to India's position is likely to disappoint its European allies, especially Ukraine, and could damage the united front against Russia that the US wants to form," he added.

According to India's ANI News, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who was not present at yesterday's G20 FMM, sought to draw an analogy between legendary rock band The Beatles with the QUAD as more of a "soft Beatles" where members can release their own solo albums. 

With the G20FMM failing to agree on the content of a joint statement, the US-led QUAD's joint statement shows that Washington has lost faith and patience in leading and making use of multilateral platforms, Lü said. "The US now prefers to implement its ideas of global governance in smaller blocs."

QUAD members announced the establishment of a working group on "counter-terrorism" in the statement. While developing the small bloc and creating regional instability, the US, which is fanning the flames of the Ukraine crisis, also expressed support for ASEAN centrality and unity, and "unwavering support" for the UN Charter along with its QUAD allies. They also condemned North Korea's "destabilizing ballistic missile launches."

It's just ridiculous for the US-led group to say one thing and do another, Lü said.