Leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India are expected to signal their opposition to China's attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas when they meet in Washington later this week, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
According to the sources, a draft of a joint leaders' statement uses tougher language than before regarding the situation in the waters where China is stepping up its territorial claims, saying that the Quad members "oppose challenges to the maritime rules-based order," particularly in the East and South China seas.
The gathering on Friday will be the first-ever in-person Quad summit, which the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has said will provide an opportunity to deepen ties, promote a "free and open" Indo-Pacific and partner on emerging technologies and cyberspace, among other issues.
At the previous Quad summit in March, held in a virtual format, the four leaders noted in their statement that they will "facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order" in the East and South China seas.
Beijing in recent years has become more assertive regarding its claim to the Senkaku Islands, a group of Japan-administered islets in the East China Sea that are called Diaoyu by Beijing. It has also continued to militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea despite a 2016 international ruling against its claims in the waters.
On technological cooperation, the four countries said in the draft statement that they will advance secure and transparent 5G networks, an area in which competition has been intensifying between the United States and China, according to the sources.
The document also highlighted the Quad as a force for regional peace, stability and security, reflecting the Biden administration's emphasis on the group of major Indo-Pacific democracies amid its efforts to push back against Beijing.
The wording cited in the draft could change as there are still a few days left until the summit, which will bring together Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.
The Quad was originally formed in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In recent years, the group has gained renewed attention as a counterweight to China's growing assertiveness in the region.
During the previous U.S. administration under Donald Trump, the Quad held meetings at the foreign ministerial level. But the engagement has moved to the leaders' level under the Biden administration, with their first summit meeting in March this year.
In addition to the Quad, the United States announced last week the creation of a new security partnership for the Indo-Pacific with Britain and Australia, which will help Canberra obtain nuclear-powered submarines.