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Quad: “None has illusions about China”, says US NSA Sullivan

Quad: “None has illusions about China”, says US NSA Sullivan

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Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: None of the leaders of four Quad member nations—US, India, Australia, and Japan—who discussed critical issues during their first virtual Summit on Friday—have any “illusions” about China, US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan said immediately after the videoconferencing.

“The Quad is now a critical part of the architecture of the Indo-Pacific, and today’s summit also kicks off an intensive stretch of diplomacy in the region,” he said.

“Make no mistake; today is a big day for American diplomacy. This summit is a big deal for the president and for the country, and we are looking forward to the work ahead,” Sullivan said.

Addressing a White House briefing soon after the historic Summit, he said the four leaders—US President Joe Biden, Indian PM Narendra Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison, and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga– discussed the “challenges” posed by China. They have also agreed to hold a physical meeting later in 2021.

Sullivan said the leaders addressed key regional issues, including freedom of navigation and freedom from coercion in the South and East China Seas, the North Korea nuclear issue, and the coup and violent repression in Myanmar.

“Over the course of the meeting, a sense of optimism for the future, despite the hard times we’re in, was on full display,” he added.

“The four leaders did discuss the challenge posed by China, and they made clear that none of them have any illusions about China, but today was not fundamentally about China,” Sullivan said days before a crucial meeting with top Chinese officials.

Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are scheduled to meet their Chinese counterparts Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of China, and State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18-19.

“This is our effort to communicate clearly to the Chinese government how the United States intends to proceed at a strategic level, what we believe our fundamental interests and values are, and what our concerns with their activities are – whether it’s on Hong Kong, or Xinjiang, or in the Taiwan Strait – or, frankly, the issues that we heard today from our Quad partners: their coercion of Australia, their harassment around the Senkaku Islands, their aggression on the border with India,” Sullivan said.

The Quad summit took place as China and India are involved in a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh since May 2020. After lengthy rounds of talks, the two sides simultaneously withdrew troops from the Pangong Lake area in February while talks are on for the withdrawal of soldiers from the rest of the friction points along the LAC, media reported.

In a joint statement, titled “The Spirit of the Quad”, the leaders pledged to strengthen cooperation on the “defining challenges of our time.”

The four leaders also spoke about the competition of models between autocracy and democracy and expressed their confidence that despite setbacks and imperfections, democracy is the best system to deliver for people and to meet the economic, social, and technological challenges of the 21st century, he said.

Sullivan said much of the focus during Friday’s Quad summit was on pressing global crises, including climate change and Covid-19. With respect to the pandemic, they made a massive joint commitment.

“The leaders also launched a set of working groups, including an emerging technology group that will help set standards in key technologies like 5G and artificial intelligence, and another on cyberspace that will help the four countries meet this growing threat.

“These groups will deliver results by the time of the summit that will happen before the end of the year,” Sullivan said.

Secretary of State Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Japan and South Korea to meet with their counterparts in a 2-plus-2 format.

He said the impetus behind the new cyber working group is not just the SolarWinds incident or the Microsoft Exchange incident, both of which the United States is responding to with urgency, but also cyber-attacks that have hit Japan, India, and Australia just in the past few weeks and months.

“This is a common challenge that we face from both state actors and non-state actors, and we do intend to make the Quad a central vehicle for cooperation on cyber,” Sullivan added.

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