On the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the foreign ministers of the Quad nations – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – convened in New York to reinforce their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and uphold the principles of the UN Charter. This gathering, held against the backdrop of geopolitical tensions and global crises, highlighted the group’s dedication to regional stability, security, and cooperation.
The Quad, a coalition formed in 2017 as a response to China’s assertive behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, reiterated its core principles. In their joint statement, the ministers emphasized the importance of international law, respect for sovereignty, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. They underlined the significance of adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in addressing maritime challenges.
While the statement did not explicitly mention China, it raised concerns about the militarization of disputed features, the use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt offshore exploitation activities – alluding to China’s actions in the South and East China Seas.
The Quad’s commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” reflects their vision of a region characterized by peace, prosperity, stability, and security, devoid of intimidation or coercion. They affirmed their dedication to supporting ASEAN’s unity and centrality, underscoring the importance of regional organizations like the Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Rim Association in addressing regional challenges.
The Quad ministers also expressed deep concern over ongoing crises, including the war in Ukraine, advocating for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in accordance with international law. They denounced North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, emphasizing the importance of denuclearization.
Addressing the humanitarian and economic crisis in Myanmar, the group called for an end to violence and a return to democracy. They showed support for the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, an agreement between the Myanmar junta and ASEAN countries.
A notable highlight of the meeting was the Quad’s commitment to countering terrorism. They stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to combat terror financing, cross-border movement of terrorists, and the misuse of technology for terrorist purposes. The Quad Counterterrorism Working Group’s Consequence Management Exercise was discussed, with plans for a tabletop exercise scheduled in December.
In terms of practical initiatives, the group reiterated their dedication to the Indo-Pacific region. They pledged to support the Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Program, enhance pandemic preparedness, and establish a secure telecommunications network. The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness was acknowledged for its role in addressing illicit maritime activities and climate-related and humanitarian events.
As for global issues, the Quad endorsed the United Nations’ efforts to restart the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement vital for securing grain exports from Ukraine and Russia. They called for comprehensive UN reform, including expanding representation on the UN Security Council. The next Quad foreign ministers’ meeting will be held in Japan in 2024.