The United States, Japan, Australia and India discussed the importance of "peace and security" in the Taiwan Strait during a virtual meeting of their senior officials on Thursday, the U.S. State Department said, with the stance an apparent veiled swipe against China's stepped-up pressure on Taiwan.
The four countries, collectively known as the "Quad," also agreed to work toward holding their first-ever in-person summit by the end of this year, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry's press release.
The talks among senior officials took place to follow up on a virtual summit meeting held among U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March.
The Biden administration has placed an emphasis on the group of major democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region which faces China's growing assertiveness.
During Thursday's meeting, the four countries agreed on further advancing practical cooperation on maritime security, cybersecurity, disaster relief and other issues toward the achievement of a "free and open" Indo-Pacific, while affirming the need for international cooperation to end the coronavirus pandemic.
They also exchanged views on regional issues such as North Korea, Myanmar, and the East and South China seas, where China has been stepping up its territorial claims.
On Taiwan, the State Department said in its press release that the senior officials "discussed the importance of peace and security in the Taiwan Strait."
The situation regarding Taiwan has been drawing attention recently as China increases its pressure on the self-ruled democratic island, which Beijing regards as a renegade province awaiting reunification.
Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Since then, Beijing has endeavored to bring Taiwan into its fold, by force if necessary.
Japan and the United States have been underscoring the importance of "peace and stability" in the Taiwan Strait during meetings between their officials. Similar phrases have also appeared in the communique of the Group of Seven summit in June as well as a joint statement issued after Biden met South Korean President Moon Jae In in May.