China hopes US quadrilateral with India, Japan, Oz doesn't damage 3rd party's interest

5 Nov 2017

China today reacted cautiously over a proposal by the Trump administration for a working-level quadrilateral meeting with India, Japan and Australia, saying Beijing hopes that it would not target or damage a "third party's interest". The US was looking at a "working-level" quadrilateral meeting in the near term with India, Japan and Australia and offer countries in the Indo-Pacific region an alternative to predatory financing or unsustainable debt, the State Department had said last month. The proposal was, however, seen by China as an attempt to counter its influence in the region. Reacting to it, the Chinese Foreign Ministry hoped that such an arrangement will promote mutual trust among countries in the region and not harm its interest.
"China hopes the collaboration among relevant countries could comply with the trend of times, which refers to peace, development, and cooperation and shared benefits, and also conform to the prospects of the regions and nations for common security and development," the ministry said in a written response to a query from PTI here. "We hope it would be beneficial for improving the mutual trust among countries and regions, at the same time safeguarding and promoting peace, tranquillity, and prosperity within the area, without targeting or damaging a third party's interest," it said. State Department's Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells had said: "As we explore ways to deepen and try to inculcate some of the values - freedom of navigation, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, transparency - obviously, Australia would be a natural partner in that effort as well". The freedom of navigation is mostly referred to unhindered movement of ships and flights in the disputed South China Sea as China claims most of the busy trade route through which goods worth over USD 5.3 trillion pass every year.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the resource-rich area. The US has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert the freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said earlier that Tokyo would propose a "top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia" to promote free trade and defence cooperation across the Indian Ocean. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to bring up the same issue during his meeting with US President Donald Trump who is currently visiting Tokyo. The US President would arrive in Beijing on a three-day visit from November 8. Besides the proposed grouping, President Xi Jinping is expected to discuss with Trump, America's new South Asia policy piling up pressure on China's close ally Pakistan over terror safe heavens and Japan's proposal to jointly work out an alternative Silk Road plan with the US and India to counter China's multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which includes USD 50 billion CPEC.
India has opposed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it traversed through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The quadrilateral idea has drawn criticism from sate-run Chinese media. Although Wells refuted reports that the move is aimed at containing China, statements by other senior US officials sound suspicious, an article in Global Times said recently.
Wells said that the mechanism will offer countries in the Indo-Pacific region an alternative to predatory financing or unsustainable debt, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently rebuked China for being an irresponsible international actor prone to predatory economic policies, the article said. "Investment and trade are an important means to promote world economy. If the US, Japan, Australia and India can coordinate and support infrastructure construction and economic development of Indo-Pacific countries, they are more than welcome. But if they try to incorporate values into economic issues and display prejudice and hostility toward other countries, they will not bring stability to the region," it added. (PTI)