Japan, aware of the economic might of its largest trading partner and its own limited military options, must pursue a delicate balance, experts said.
“When we talk about the Quad, some people express their concern about what China might think about it,” said Narushige Michishita, director of the security and international studies program at the National Institute of Higher Political Studies in Tokyo. “If we talk about China in this context, China would see this as a containment conspiracy, so that sentiment remains.
The Quad, said Michishita, “is about China, but we’re saying it’s not about China. Everyone knows it. China knows it. We don’t have to say it too much. “
Cooperation between the four countries, officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, began in 2004 to coordinate disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in the wake of the devastating tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
But as the grouping evolved into a diplomatic and security partnership that Beijing saw as a direct effort to contain its rise, Australia and India became wary of a reaction from China, and the group collapsed.
“It was too early,” said Lavina Lee, senior lecturer in international relations at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The first version of the Quad “foresaw and created a security dilemma where none existed”.