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Days before first Quad summit, Japan PM Suga shares worries about China in call with Modi

PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga spoke on the telephone Tuesday ahead of a gathering of all four leaders of the Quad countries — US, India, Japan and Australia.

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New Delhi: Three days before the first summit meeting of leaders of the Quad countries — US, India, Japan and Australia — Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shared concerns over China’s “attempt to change status quo” in the East and South China Seas.

In a 40-minute phone call with Modi Tuesday, Suga “expressed serious concerns regarding unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea, China’s Coast Guard Law and the situation in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).”

Ever since China came out with its new coast guard law in January, Japan has been concerned that it is targeted at Tokyo’s vessels in the region. However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had stated earlier this week that the law is not aimed at any country.

Japan had expressed concern over the coast guard law even during the Quad member countries meeting in February.

Also read: Quad stresses on ‘rules-based order’ in Indo-Pacific amid India-China troubles, Myanmar coup

‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’

Modi and Suga also vowed to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region

“The two leaders shared the recognition that cooperation towards realizing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important and to this end, shared the view to steadily advance both Japan-India bilateral cooperation and Japan-Australia-India-U.S. quadrilateral cooperation,” stated a release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

The two leaders also discussed bilateral issues between New Delhi and Tokyo, including the “progress” on the bullet train project, also called the high-speed rail project.

The high-speed railway network project, which was officially inaugurated in September 2017 by Modi and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has suffered major delays as it got entangled in a political crisis between the Centre and the Maharashtra government.

The project is being set up between Mumbai and Ahmedabad for a cost of around $12 billion.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, both leaders stressed on the fact that “engagement with like-minded countries such as Australia and the U.S. in the form of Quad consultations holds value and agreed that these useful discussions must continue.”

Prime Minister Modi also invited Suga to India for the annual bilateral summit.

The two leaders last spoke to each other in September 2020 after Suga took over as Japan’s new Prime Minister.

Modi and Suga also vowed to “closely work together” on issues concerning abductions on Japanese nationals by North Korea and the military coup in Myanmar.

Virtual summit of Quad countries

Leaders of the four Quad countries are likely to hold a virtual summit later this month in an effort to give the informal grouping a formal shape.

Calling it a “feature of Indo-Pacific engagement”, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference last week said that he is “looking forward to that first gathering of the Quad leaders. It will be the first ever such gathering … And of course we’re looking forward to those discussions and follow-up face-to-face meetings as well.”

He also said he has spoken to Suga, Modi and Biden on this issue.

In an interview to ThePrint recently, Japanese Ambassador to India Satoshi Suzuki said that the four Quad countries work closely to develop quality infrastructure, promote maritime security and collectively fight against terrorism.

This report has been updated with new details throughout.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: India, Japan, Anglosphere aping earlier Cold War conditions. Must end their wait for America


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