Quad Defense Chiefs Pledge Deeper Cooperation Amid South China Sea Tensions

The defense chiefs of the United States, Australia, Japan and the Philippines have vowed to deepen their cooperation as they gathered in Hawaii on Thursday for their second-ever joint meeting. The meeting comes amid growing concerns about China’s activities in the South China Sea, where Beijing has long-standing territorial disputes with several Southeast Asian nations.

Last month, the four countries conducted their first joint naval exercises in the South China Sea, a critical shipping route. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the drills strengthened the nations’ ability to work together, build bonds among their forces and underscore their shared commitment to international law in the waterway.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles noted that the defense chiefs discussed increasing the tempo of their defense exercises, sending a “very significant message to the region and to the world about four democracies which are committed to the global rules-based order.”

The meeting comes as tensions have escalated between the Philippines and China over the resource-abundant region, with China employing aggressive tactics to impede Philippine resupply and patrol missions. China has also expressed its intention to assert control over access to the South China Sea and bring Taiwan under its authority, even by force if deemed necessary.