US President Joe Biden is holding the first in-person meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as "the Quad," an informal strategic forum of the United States, Australia, Japan and India -- all democratic countries with a vested interest in countering China's rise in Asia. Biden will be joined in Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian leader Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss "promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific," according to the White House.
The meeting comes at a time of great change for US policy in Asia. As the Biden administration moves to strengthen its diplomatic partnerships in the region, Japan is taking an increasingly hawkish view of China's military buildup. At the same time, Australia's AUKUS defense pact with the US and the United Kingdom has solidified Washington's commitment to Asia while making some important Southeast Asian partners uneasy.
At this critical point, what the Quad chooses to do next is more important than ever. Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis said compared to its early roots under the George W. Bush administration, the Quad had evolved from a "low key political and economic dialogue" to a very significant player in the Asia Pacific region.
"The Quad is not an Asian NATO ... but at the same time it is clearly moving in the direction of a cooperative security approach," Davis said.
The Quad was initially proposed in 2007, but was put on hold for a decade until it was revived under former US President Donald Trump amid China's rise as an economic and military superpower. The diplomatic environment in Asia has changed markedly since that 2017 revival -- and the Quad has taken on a greater significance. In April 2020, relations between Australia and China took a major downturn after Australia's Morrison called for...