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The United States hopes to work with Japan to further advance the “Quad” group under presumptive next Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks suggested Friday.

The Quad groups four Indo-Pacific democracies — the U.S., Japan, Australia and India — and is seen as a counter to China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Noting that the United States has a “very enduring and durable alliance” with Japan, Hicks told an online event organized by a Washington think tank, that the U.S. looked forward to continued close ties.

“We fully anticipate having a very positive relationship, including through the Quad,” she said.

She also seemed to shrug off any possible concerns stemming from a change in prime minister for the close U.S. ally, saying the United States and Japan are “quite used to shifts of power inside our democratic processes.”

The Quad originated in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and in recent years has gained traction as a counterweight to Beijing’s growing clout in the region.

Building on the efforts of former President Donald Trump’s administration, the current occupant of the White House, President Joe Biden, has elevated the grouping to the leaders’ level as it seeks to rally U.S. allies and like-minded countries to address the challenges posed by China.

During the first in-person Quad summit in Washington last month, the leaders of the four countries affirmed a wide range of areas in which they seek to cooperate, including coronavirus vaccines, infrastructure, semiconductor supply chains and space. They also agreed to hold a leaders’ meeting annually.

Outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended both the first-ever Quad summit in March, which took place virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the in-person meeting on Sept. 24.

Suga, who faced mounting criticism over his government’s coronavirus response, decided not to seek re-election as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Kishida won the LDP presidential election late last month and is on track to be formally elected as prime minister Monday in the Diet.

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