Canada has proposed creating a quadruple cooperation framework with Japan, South Korea and the United States as part of efforts to counter China and Russia, diplomatic sources said Sunday.
Canada conveyed the idea directly to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida when he visited Ottawa in January, the sources said, adding that it believes the expansion of the existing trilateral mechanism involving the United States and its key Asian allies will help boost ties among countries belonging to the liberal democratic camp in the Pacific Rim region.
U.S. diplomats said Washington is in favor of Ottawa's plan to deepen cooperation with Tokyo and Seoul, whose bilateral ties have been quickly improving in recent weeks.
In early March, South Korea unveiled a plan to end a long-standing dispute with Japan over wartime labor issues, raising hopes for better ties between the two U.S. allies and broader trilateral collaboration, especially in the area of defense, as North Korea also remains a security challenge.
The momentum for rapprochement became more evident after Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol held a meeting in Tokyo on Thursday and agreed to normalize relations between their countries.
The Canadian suggestion is similar to the Quad partnership of Indo-Pacific democracies formed by Australia, India, Japan and the United States that is seen as a counterbalance to the growing influence of China in the region.
Like the Quad countries, Canada wishes to promote universal values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, as well as tackle climate change and other global issues, by working closely with Japan, South Korea and the United States, according to the sources.
Canada, Japan and the United States are members of the Group of Seven. Kishida will host this year's summit of the group of major democratic economies in May in Hiroshima, with the Japanese government inviting South Korea's Yoon as a guest to the discussions.
If Yoon travels to the western Japan city, the Canadian proposal, which was initially conveyed through diplomatic channels last year, could be brought up in bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit.
However, Japan has told the Canadian government that it would take time to realize the concept, if at all, according to the sources.
Relations between Canada and China have been frosty since the detention of Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer in late 2018 in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud, and Beijing's subsequent arrest of two Canadians on espionage allegations.
The three were released in 2021 but bilateral ties remain frayed, with Canada announcing a new Indo-Pacific strategy in November last year in which it characterized China as an "increasingly disruptive global power."
"In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behavior -- economic or otherwise -- ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region," the strategy said. "We will work together with regional partners."
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