US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at China on Tuesday at a meeting here of US regional allies. Pompeo accused China's governing Communist Party of "exploitation, corruption and coercion", the BBC reported.

He was meeting counterparts from Australia, India and Japan - a group known as "The Quad" - to discuss an increasingly assertive China. Under the Donald Trump administration, relations between the US and China have plummeted to their worst in decades.

As a counter-measure, Washington has been making efforts to strengthen ties with regional allies.

The Quad - the other members represented by Japan's Toshimitsu Motegi, Australia's Marise Payne and India's S. Jaishankar - was expected to discuss other issues as well, including the coronavirus pandemic and cyber security.

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"Looking forward to discussing increased cooperation to promote our shared vision for a free and open #IndoPacific, composed of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous," Pompeo tweeted on departure.

China's Disdain for Quad

China has previously made clear its disdain for the Quad grouping, and warned ahead of the meeting against "exclusive cliques" that target third parties.

"We hope relevant countries can proceed from the common interests of countries in the region, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace, stability and development, not the other way around," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

The Quadrilateral Initiative - informally named the Quad - first began in May 2007 with a meeting between the US, Japan, India and Australia in the Philippine capital Manila.

The informal grouping, championed by Japan's then prime minister Shinzo Abe, was viewed by analysts as an attempt to step up co-operation in the face of a rapidly rising China.

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However, when Beijing sent formal protests about the Quad, its members said their "strategic partnership" was only aimed at maintaining regional security and was not targeting any particular country.

The Quad group then lost momentum and was only revived again a few years ago.