New Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga cleared his first diplomatic hurdle Tuesday, ensuring a smooth transition in U.S.-Japan relations during his meeting with State Secretary Mike Pompeo and pushing for stronger regional ties as China seeks to augment its already growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

The meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office took place ahead of the dialogue among foreign ministers from the so-called Quad countries — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — to discuss coronavirus pandemic responses and China’s increasing assertiveness.

Known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Japan particularly hopes to further advance what it calls its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” push, a vision touting the principles of freedom of navigation, free trade and dispute settlement based on the rule of law — a veiled censure against China as it has intensified its moves to assert control over the contested South China and East China seas.