Move Over, Quad The New Squad Has Landed

(MENAFN- Asia Times) MANILA – As tensions rise in the South China Sea and the threat of a war over Taiwan becomes more palpable, the US Pentagon is stepping up its regional defense diplomacy in a potent challenge to China's rising regional threats and ambitions.

Last week, US Secretary of Defense
Lloyd Austin
hosted counterparts from Japan, Australia and the Philippines for what is being privately referred to as a budding new“Squad” defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.

The participants“share a vision for peace, stability and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific” and have“chartered an ambitious course to advance that vision together.” Austin said during a press conference on the sidelines of the defense summit in Hawaii, home to the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).

Austin claimed the new quadrilateral is rapidly consolidating into a long-term security grouping.

The“Squad” meeting came just weeks after the four nations conducted their first-ever joint patrols in the hotly contested South China Sea and the historic Japan-Philippine-US trilateral summit between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and US President Joe Biden at the White House.

In the coming months, the four Squad nations are set to enhance interoperability, conduct more joint patrols and drills, and enhance intelligence and maritime security cooperation – all with an eye on China's expanding footprint across the Western Pacific.

Marcos Jr's hard pivot to the West and his increasingly firm stance on Philippine claims vis-à-vis China in the South China Sea are driving the rapid institutionalization of the new quadrilateral grouping.

A dying Quad

In contrast to the better-known “Quad”, a security partnership comprising India , Australia, the US and Japan, the“Squad” has greater internal coherence and a clear shared strategic vision for the region. India remains close with its traditional security partner Russia and has openly defied Western-led sanctions on Moscow over its Ukraine invasion.

Unlike India, the Philippines is a US mutual defense treaty ally and is set to finalize a Visiting Forces Agreement-style pact with Japan similar to its existing agreements with Australia and the US. The Marcos Jr administration has expanded the number of Philippine bases to which the US has rotational military access, including facilities close to Taiwan.


Asia Times

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