US Administration officials have cited India’s tensions with China in eastern Ladakh as one of the reasons for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tough words on China in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Speaking at other engagements before the four Foreign Ministers of Quad countries met for three hours, Pompeo attacked China and the Chinese Communist Party on grounds ranging from coercion to corruption. Though a US read-out of Pompeo’s account about the Quad Ministerial meeting did not target China, he was the only one of the four Foreign Ministers to do so in his earlier observations such as during an interview and in his opening address.
The essence that came out of the meeting was to undertake joint initiative or cooperate in critical technologies and materials, maritime and cyber security and quality infrastructure building. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne referred to positivity as the main force behind the deliberations, which was at odds with what Pompeo had advocated. The other two participants, S Jaishankar and Toshimitsu Motegi, also kept off China from their addresses.
A senior US State Department official, briefing the media, however, said Pompeo was right in explicitly criticising China because of Beijing’s “sudden turn towards gross aggression in its entire periphery’’. This included the conflict in the Himalayas where something that was handled according to unspoken or unwritten rules in the past has now turned to “people beating each other to death”.
“You take it [the sudden Chinese aggression] all the way around the Indo-Pacific and its western borders; you’re seeing things that you haven’t seen before, and these are responding to that,’’ added the official.
Another official said if China thought it was a great power it should participate in arms control talks as well as use WTO in ways that are acceptable to everybody.
The officials also played down China’s claim of assisting the WHO to fight the pandemic. While the US has put $ 20.5 billion towards a vaccine, China volunteered $ 2 billion in April, and “as far as I can tell, we haven’t seen any of that money’’.
“China promises a lot, but they don’t necessarily deliver unless you force them. And that’s an area that this group can help ensure that they live up to,’’ added the official.