In a nod to Quad, US, Australia call for rules-based order in Indo-Pacific
The US and Australia have called for a “free, open, and prosperous rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region,” echoing the central theme that binds The Quad, an emerging four-nation compact with India and Japan focussed on managing and countering the rise of China.
“We are committed to fostering an Indo-Pacific region where all countries abide by international law,” said the US-Australia joint statement after a meeting of their leaders Donald Trump and Malcom Turnbull at the White House on Friday. “A free, open, and prosperous rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region is in both our nations’ enduring national interests,” it said.
There was expectation in the run-up to their meeting that discussions would include a project the US, Australia, India and Japan were jointly considering to rival China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar One Belt, One Road initiative. There was speculation they could announce it, something officials had dismissed as not “ripe enough”, The Australian Financial Review reported.
But the two countries, who are close allies, did say in the joint statement that they “intend to continue to use diplomacy and assistance to support good governance and smart development decisions in the region”.
Though there has been talk of the Quad — short for Quadrilateral — for a while, the four countries are taking another shot at it in efforts that began gathering steam around the time of US secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s visit to India.
“We've long had a trilateral relationship in the Indo- Pacific between Japan, Australia, and the US, and we're now working towards whether this will become a quad relationship to include India because of the importance of India's rising economy as well and I think shared national security concerns that we have with India,” Tillerson had said in a speech before the visit in October.
The first formal meeting of Quad officials took place in November on the sidelines of the ASEAN meet in Manila, Philippines.
The participants “agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large”, India’s ministry of external affairs had said using the same language and terms the Quad members have tended to use.
To reinforce its Indo-Pacific strategy, and in what is being seen as a response to China's aggressive outreach to Pacific Island states, the United States (US) - along with Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Japan - announced a new Partners in Blue Pacific initiative on Friday. This month, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, also undertook an eight country tour in the region and hosted a China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers Meeting in Fiji.
Russia's army has “fully occupied” the key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting, its mayor said on Saturday, an important strategic win for Moscow as it seeks to gain full control over the east of the country. The industrial hub of Severodonetsk has been the scene of weeks of running battles, but the Ukrainian army said on Friday that its outgunned forces would withdraw to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk.
President Joe Biden criticised the US Supreme Court for making “terrible decisions”, a day after it struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Biden commented during a signing ceremony on Saturday for gun safety bill he supports, though he continued to sidestep questions about reforms to the court sought by some Democrats. He didn't respond to other questions, such as on court or filibuster reform, before heading off to Europe for international summits.
Ukraine's Severodonetsk was "fully occupied" by the Russian army, its mayor said on Saturday, after weeks of fighting over the key eastern city. The Ukrainian army on Friday said it would withdraw its forces from the city of some 100,000 inhabitants before the war to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk. Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said civilians had started to evacuate the Azot chemical plant, where several hundred people had been hiding from Russian shelling.
Ukraine said it came under "massive bombardment" Saturday from neighbouring Belarus, a Russian ally not officially involved in the conflict, the day after announcing a retreat from the strategic city of Severodonetsk. Belarus has provided logistic support to Moscow since the February 24 invasion, particularly in the first few weeks, and like Russia has been targeted by Western sanctions -- but is officially not involved in the conflict.