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US Secretary of State Pompeo Holds Talks With Asia-Pacific Counterparts in Tokyo

From left; Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne leave prime minister's office following a meeting in Tokyo,…

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is holding talks Tuesday in Tokyo with his counterparts from Japan, Australia and India that are aimed at strengthening a regional initiative to counter China’s growing assertiveness.

The four top diplomats, including Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s Minister of External Affairs — dubbed in diplomatic circles as the Quad, will discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the creation of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Initiative (FOIP) focused on economic and security cooperation.

The four diplomats also will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as part of his first diplomatic effort since replacing Shinzo Abe last month, after Abe stepped down citing health issues.

During a bilateral meeting with Motegi ahead of the Quad summit, Pompeo praised Prime Minister Suga as “a powerful force for good” serving as Abe’s chief spokesman and key ally during the former prime minister’s tenure, and he said Washington “has every reason to believe he will strengthen our enduring alliance in his new role."

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell briefed reporters by phone Friday on Pompeo’s upcoming trip. Stilwell said Pompeo’s first stop will be Tokyo and lauded the timing because Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has just taken the helm.

China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development. The visit comes at a low point for U.S.-China relations, and Pompeo has been a forceful and outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party and what he views as Beijing’s aggressive foreign policy.

Tuesday’s quadrilateral meeting in Tokyo was to be Pompeo’s first stop on a three-nation tour of Asia that included Mongolia and South Korea, but those visits were canceled after President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was briefly hospitalized.

Cindy Saine contributed to this report.