TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Quad group involving Japan, the United States, Australia and India are considering holding talks by their foreign ministers in mid-February in Australia, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.
The gathering of the ministers, if realized, would be their first in-person meeting since October 2020, taking place ahead of a summit of the Quad nations' leaders which Japan plans to host in spring with the aim of further showcasing the four Indo-Pacific democracies' deepening ties amid China's rising clout in the region.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar are expected to attend the talks. The meeting could be switched to a virtual format depending on the COVID-19 situation, the sources said.
Among likely agenda items for the meeting are their cooperation in such fields as security and the economy toward realizing a "free and open Indo-Pacific," and concerns over Beijing's military assertiveness in the East and South China seas, according to the sources.
The ministers are also expected to confirm progress in their cooperation, agreed on at the previous Quad summit in Washington in September, in infrastructure building in the Indo-Pacific region, utilization of outer space and bolstering of the semiconductor supply chain, the sources said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to hold the next Quad summit in Japan in spring during their bilateral virtual meeting Friday.
The four nations plan to have their leaders' meeting every year.