US Forming Anti-China ‘Squad’ With Japan, Philippines, and Australia

The four nations recently conducted joint drills in the South China Sea

The US has been working to increase military cooperation with the Philippines, Japan, and Australia as part of its strategy against China in the Asia Pacific, a grouping Pentagon officials privately call the “Squad,” Bloomberg reported on Friday.

The defense chiefs of the US, the Philippines, Japan, and Australia met in Hawaii on May 2 and issued a joint readout that used harsh rhetoric against China’s claims to the South China Sea and the East China Sea, two areas where the US has vowed to intervene if the maritime disputes turn into shooting wars.

“The Ministers and Secretaries expressed serious concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas,” the readout said. “They strongly objected to the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea. They reiterated serious concern over the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct.”

They also vowed to increase military cooperation, including in the South China Sea. “The Ministers and Secretaries discussed opportunities to further advance defense cooperation, including through continued maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, enhanced procedures to enable coordination and information sharing arrangements, as well as strengthening capacity building,” the readout said.

The four nations conducted their first quadrilateral military exercise in the South China Sea in April. The waters have been a major source of tensions between Manila and Beijing, as Chinese and Philippine vessels often have tense encounters that sometimes end in collision near disputed rocks and reefs.

The US has repeatedly vowed that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea. Similarly, the US has affirmed that the mutual defense portion of the US-Japan Security Treaty would apply to the Senkaku Islands, Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China.

Boosting regional partnerships and forming new alliances is a key part of the US military buildup in the region, and the “Squad” is just one iteration. The US has also been looking to strengthen the “Quad,” which includes the US, India, Japan, and Australia. The US also formed the AUKUS security pact in 2021 with the UK and Australia, which focuses on technology sharing, including nuclear-powered submarines that Canberra will obtain.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.