Abe's democratic security diamond and new quadrilateral initiative: an Australian perspective

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In December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe authored an opinion piece in Project Syndicate advocating the creation of a 'democratic security diamond' (DSD) in which Japan, the United States, India and Australia would "safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific" to defend the existing regional order and oppose Chinese "coercion". This paper assesses Abe's DSD from Australia's perspective and asks: how receptive might Australia be to participation in a revived quadrilateral initiative among these four countries? The paper offers a historical explanation of why the antecedent to the DSD, the Quadrilateral Dialogue of 2007, was premature from Australia's perspective. It then analyses Australia's perception of its strategic environment, including the threats and risks identified in the latest 2016 Defence White Paper, and argues that Australia would now be receptive to a revival of quadrilateral cooperation between the four countries because Canberra increasingly views with pessimism the prospect that China will leave the existing liberal rules based order unchallenged as it rises. It argues that quadrilateral cooperation would complement Australia's existing bilateral and trilateral relationships with the United States and Japan, assist in the development of closer relations with India, and further Australia's strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific. However, Australia's interests are best served if this comes in an a looser and less formal format than Abe's DSD idea, focused on HADR and anti-piracy type activities in the Indian Ocean to avoid the creation of a regional security dilemma. Finally, it argues that deeper strategic convergence between the four nations is inevitable, if Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Seas continues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of East Asian affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Maritime Security
  • Indo-Pacific
  • Quadrilateral Cooperation
  • Democratic Security Diamond


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