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Return of Asia’s Quad ‘Natural’: US Defense Chief

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Return of Asia’s Quad ‘Natural’: US Defense Chief

US officials are sending signals that its revival is a matter of when, rather than if.

Return of Asia’s Quad ‘Natural’: US Defense Chief

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and Japanese Maritime Self-defense Force Akizuki-class destroyer JS Fuyuzuki sail alongside the Indian Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Shakti during Exercise Malabar 2015.

Credit: U.S. Navy Photo

The revival of the defunct U.S.-Australia-India-Japan quadrilateral security dialogue is “natural,” U.S. defense chief Ash Carter told The Diplomat Friday ahead of his Asia trip to India and the Philippines (See: “US Defense Chief to Visit India, Philippines in Boost for Asia Rebalance”).

The quadrilateral security dialogue – or ‘quad’ – was a short-lived initiative in 2007 where diplomats from the four countries met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Though initiative died after one meeting – largely due to fears about China perceiving the grouping as containment – some have called for its revival amid an even greater convergence among the Asia-Pacific giants, particularly in the wake of growing concerns about China’s rise (See: “India May Have Quad Military Exercise With US, Japan, Australia: Ex-Top Diplomat”).

Asked what the U.S. position was on the revival of the quad, Carter told The Diplomat that this was a “natural” outgrowth of U.S. efforts to encourage what he termed “ever-widening networks of activity” between its allies and partners in the region.

“It’s natural,” Carter said on board a Boeing 737 flight from New York back to Washington, D.C. “You can just keep going.”

Earlier, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on America’s growing security network in the Asia-Pacific, Carter had mentioned trilateral cooperation, specifically the involvement of Japan, India, and the United States in the MALABAR exercise (See: “Why the ‘New’ US Trilateral Dialogue With Japan and India Matters”). He did not, however, mention the ‘quad’.

But a senior U.S. defense official told The Diplomat that the ‘quad’ will continue to be discussed and that even though the idea is “gestational,” the United States hopes to “give birth” to the idea in the future.

“I think the quadrilateral idea…is gestational, I think it’s something we’ll be continuing to discuss and we hope to give birth to that gestational idea as we go. But it’s still in [its] early stages,” the official said.

In a recent speech at a security conference in New Delhi in March, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Harry Harris urged participants to consider the idea of expanding trilateral cooperation between India, Japan, and Australia to a “quadrilateral venue” with the United States.

His remarks had left observers wondering if the quad may be revived sometime soon in the form of a dialogue between the four countries.