US President Donald Trump has awarded the Legion of Merit to current and former leaders in Australia India and Japan

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US President Donald Trump has awarded the Legion of Merit to current and former leaders in Australia, India and Japan, decorating the heads of the US-led “Quad” alliance created to counter Beijing in the Asia-Pacific.

The prestigious military honor was handed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian premier Scott Morrison and Japan’s ex-PM Shinzo Abe on Monday, the head of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, announced in a series of tweets.

Commending Abe – who resigned his post earlier this year over health issues – for his “vision for a free and open-Indo-Pacific,” Modi for “leadership in elevating the US-India strategic partnership” and Morrison for “promoting collective security,” O’Brien said the awards were each accepted by envoys from the three nations and would soon be relayed to the statesmen.

Together with the US, the four countries make up the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the “Asian NATO” or simply the “Quad.” Though the informal alliance was largely dormant throughout the 2010s amid disputes between Canberra and New Delhi, the Trump administration has overseen a resurgence of the bloc, encouraging renewed cooperation and military drills in the Asia-Pacific with eyes on China. The alliance met last month for three days of naval exercises off the coast of India, showing off an arsenal of destroyers, frigates and other warships.

During a meeting of the Quad in Tokyo in October, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touted the alliance as a way to “counter the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party presents to all of us,” denouncing the government for “exploitation, corruption and coercion.” Beijing, for its part, has repeatedly condemned US-led military exercises and freedom of navigation stunts, slamming American power projection in the region as a deliberate provocation while urging Washington and its allies to abandon their “Cold War mentality.”

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