European US allies to join effort to rein in China

Posted on : 2021-04-06 17:19 KST Modified on : 2021-04-06 17:19 KST
France holds a joint naval drill with all members of the Quad
US President Joe Biden, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, attend a virtual meeting of the Quad leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on March 12, 2021. (AFP/Yonhap News)
US President Joe Biden, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, second left, attend a virtual meeting of the Quad leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on March 12, 2021. (AFP/Yonhap News)

France is taking part in joint maritime exercises with the members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad for short. Those members are the US, India, Australia and Japan. The big question is whether the Quad’s expansion will create momentum for the US attempt to build a multilateral security alliance against China.

The Hindustan Times and other newspapers reported Monday that the four countries in Quad were taking part in a French-led naval exercise called La Perouse in the Bay of Bengal, lasting for three days, from Monday to Wednesday.

The French ambassador to India said this would be an opportunity for the navies of five countries with shared values to promote maritime cooperation in the “free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

This is the second time La Perouse is being held, following its inaugural session in 2019. But it’s the first time that India has taken part in the exercises.

This is the second joint maritime exercise joined by all four Quad countries following the Malabar Exercise in the Indian Ocean in November 2020.

France is holding this joint exercise with the four Quad countries despite not being a member of the Quad, leading some to infer that the Quad Plus — an expanded version of the Quad — is taking shape.

Exercise organizers said its goal is to strengthen mutual operational abilities in crisis situations, making little attempt to hide that the target is China.

Indeed, the four Quad countries concentrated bilateral joint exercises in the Indo-Pacific region at the end of March, shortly before La Perouse was set to begin.

On March 28-29, the Indian navy held a bilateral joint exercise with the US navy’s Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the eastern section of the Indian Ocean.

Other joint exercises were held by Australia and Japan in the South China Sea on March 29-31 and by the US and Japan in the East China Sea on March 29.

Some analysts think these exercises are designed to impress other countries in the region engaged in territorial disputes with China, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The South China Morning Post quoted a military expert as saying that countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia that have ongoing territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea are potential members of Quad Plus. This expert noted that these countries would seek to avoid officially joining the Quad, which could give the appearance of outright opposition to China but could certainly cooperate with Quad members on a bilateral basis.

Some have raised the possibility that other European countries, such as Germany and the UK, could take similar steps as France. The Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported Monday that Germany and Japan had agreed to hold a “two plus two” virtual meeting between their foreign ministers and defense ministers on April 16.

In what will be their first “two plus two” meeting, Germany and Japan will reportedly discuss cooperation on security matters and achieving a “free and open Indo-Pacific Ocean,” which amounts to containing China.

Germany, the most powerful economy in Europe, adopted policy guidelines in September 2020 that include an Indo-Pacific Strategy. Germany hopes to strengthen security and economic cooperation with South Korea, Japan, and the ASEAN countries to reduce its dependence on China.

By expanding cooperation with Germany, Japan hopes to create a movement in the EU for more engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

By Jung In-hwan, Beijing correspondent

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