China’s military expansion could threaten Japan’s peace and prosperity, PM Yoshihide Suga warns

China’s rapidly growing military influence and unilateral changing of the status quo could present a risk to Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday ahead of the first Quad summit.

“The changing power balance brought by the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific, along with the increasing inward focus spurred by the pandemic have increased uncertainty,” Suga said before the first in-person leaders’ meeting of Quad nations US, Australia, India and Japan, which is to be held on Friday at the White House.

The group of democracies is seen as trying to balance China’s increasing influence and military might in the region. Beijing has accused the US of trying to form a clique.

China’s changing of the status quo with its military power in the background “could present a risk to our country’s peace and prosperity,” Suga added.

In response, Japan should strengthen its alliance with the US to bolster deterrence, and also work on increasing its own defensive capabilities, he said, adding it was still important for Japan and China to maintain dialogue.

Adding to the tensions have been comments from some senior lawmakers in Suga’s ruling party about the importance of Taiwan to Japan’s security, sparking irritation from Beijing, which sees the island as part of its territory.

The Quad meeting comes as the group’s prospects of cooperating with other nations on regional security were overshadowed by a dispute involving two of its members and France.