Eyeing Chinese aggression, U.S. President Barack Obama and the prime ministers of Japan and Australia committed Sunday to deepen their military cooperation and work together on strengthening maritime security in the Asia Pacific. The meeting, the first since 2007 among leaders of the three allies, risked antagonizing Beijing after a week when Obama reached a surprising level of consensus with Chinese President Xi Jinping on climate change and trade, and Japan and China took steps to improve their relationship. China has viewed Obama’s efforts to deepen alliances with other countries in the region, particularly on security issues, as an attempt to counter Beijing’s rise.
By virtue of its size and its remarkable growth, China will inevitably play a critical role in the future of this region. And the question is, what kind of role will it play?
U.S. President Barack Obama
In a joint statement following the meeting, the three leaders said they had agreed to “deepen the already strong security and defense cooperation” between their countries. They also agreed to work on boosting “maritime security capacity building” in a region rife with disputes between China and its neighbors over claims to waters and islands. However, there were no announcements on specific military exercises or new troop deployments within the region. White House officials insisted that the three-way talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit were not meant to send a message to China. But in advance of Obama’s meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japan’s Shinzo Abe, the president pressed China to “adhere to the same rules as other nations — whether in trade or on the seas.”