In an apparent reference to China, leaders of the four countries of the Quad grouping on Tuesday expressed their objection to any “provocative or unilateral attempt” to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region, PTI reported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also called for a peaceful settlement of disputes in the second in-person meeting of the Quad leaders in Tokyo.

“We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area, such as the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities,” the Quad leaders said in a joint statement.

The Quad countries will work towards upholding of international laws related to marine navigation, including in the East and South China Seas, the statement added.

“We strongly support the principles of freedom, rule of law, democratic values, sovereignty and territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, all of which are essential to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and to the world,” read the statement.

On Monday, India and 12 other countries joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on the first day of the Quad summit. The bloc intends to offer partner countries an opportunity to counter China’s rising commercial presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

China criticised the grouping, calling it an attempt to “create a closed club”.