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Australia, US discuss ‘malign activity’ in Indo-Pacific

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have addressed the need to ease rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific to support the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have addressed the need to ease rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific to support the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has met with her counterparts from the US, Japan and India for the second Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting (the Quad).

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The ministers reaffirmed their commitments to co-operation in the Indo-Pacific to support the COVID-19 recovery and foster stability, resilience, and inclusion in the region. 

The Quad also addressed emerging challenges that threaten to “undermine” the recovery, with Minister Payne acknowledging that the region is “becoming more complex”.

“We emphasised that, especially during a pandemic, it was vital that states work to ease tensions and avoid exacerbating long-standing disputes, work to counter disinformation, and refrain from malicious cyber space activity,” Minister Payne said.

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“Ministers reiterated that states cannot assert maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

According to the US Secretary of State’s principal deputy spokesperson Cale Brown, Secretary Michael Pompeo and Minister Payne specifically noted concerns regarding the People’s Republic of China’s “malign activity” in the Indo-Pacific.

As such, the Quad has agreed to “enhance co-operation” to promote a “strategic balance” and support “a region of resilient and sovereign states”, which engage on the basis of rules, norms and international law.

This, according to Minister Payne, includes renewed support for the centrality of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the importance of an “ASEAN-led architecture” in fostering regional stability.

“[Ministers] agreed on the importance of the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific in guiding the region out of the COVID-19 crisis and shaping the post-pandemic regional order,” the minister continued.

Minister Payne added that Quad nations have also committed to strengthening co-operation in areas including maritime security, cyber affairs and critical technology, critical minerals, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

This includes protecting the resilience of regional supply chains, key cyber-enabled systems, and critical infrastructure.

“To this end, we emphasised the importance of quality infrastructure investment as a driver of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, which will be critical to supporting the region’s economic recovery,” Minister Payne said.

Ministers also agreed to better engage with other regional partners and institutions, including in the Mekong sub-region.

“Quad countries will continue to work closely at all levels, and the ministers looked forward to convening Quad ministerial meetings on a regular basis,” Minister Payne concluded.

[Related: US DoD working towards developing a networked Indo-Pacific]

Australia, US discuss ‘malign activity’ in Indo-Pacific
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