China has been asserting itself in South China Sea, and has militarised some artificial islands (File photo)
WASHINGTON: The new Biden administration sees the Quad grouping comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia as a fundamental foundation upon which to build a substantial American policy in the strategically-vital Indo-Pacific region, a top US official has said.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan said at an event organised by the US Institute of Peace, a Congress-funded think-tank, on Friday that the US will build on and carry forward the four-nation Quad grouping.
“One very positive thing we will be building on, (former NSA) Robert (O’Brien) mentioned the Quad, which for those watching who don’t know is the United States, Japan, Australia, and India,” Sullivan said.
“There too I think we really want to carry forward and build on that format, that mechanism which we see as fundamental a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Quad and the Indo-Pacific policy of the previous Trump administration are one of the few policies that the Biden administration has said it will continue to build on, besides the Abraham Accords, Sullivan said.
“Those are in two different theaters in the world and two initiatives that you will see continuity and an effort to reinforce and carry forward steps that have been taken by the previous administration,” he said.
“When the first Accords with the UAE, Bahrain were announced, it was in the heat of a political campaign, a presidential campaign, and then candidate Biden made no bones about coming out saying: ‘I think this is a good thing. I think this is a positive thing’,” he said.
Biden said consistently over the course of the last several months that he would like to carry forward this initiative, deepen the cooperation between the countries that have signed the accords, make real normalisation that has taken root and add more countries, he said.
“He (Biden) sees that as being positive for security in the region, positive for economic development, in the region, and positive for America’s national interest for many of the reasons that Robert laid out,” Sullivan said.
“So, one of the things that we will be doing in the coming weeks and months is thinking about how we make sure that the seeds that have now been planted actually grow into the full kind of cooperation across multiple dimensions and these relationships can move forward and how that can really help the United States advance our interests,” he said.
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the “Quad” to develop a new strategy to counter China’s aggressive behaviour in the strategically-vital Indo-Pacific region.
The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China’s increasing military muscle flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers. The US has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China’s growing assertiveness.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade. Although the US lays no claims to the disputed waters, it has challenged China’s growing territorial claims in the South China Sea by deploying warships and fighter jets to assert freedom of navigation and overflight patrols in the strategically-vital region.