President Joe Biden will participate in an online meeting with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia on Friday, the White House announced on Tuesday.
Reuters reports that this is the first Time the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) have met in response to China’s growing military and economic power.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “The Quad meeting demonstrates the importance that Biden places on U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.” She said the four countries are expected to discuss a range of issues facing the global community, “from the threat of epidemics, to economic cooperation and, of course, the climate crisis.”
The Biden Administration has pledged to consult with allies to discuss elements of U.S. policy toward China as the world’s two largest economies experience the lowest point in bilateral relations in decades.
A senior administration official told Reuters that this is an important signal of unity and cooperation among the countries of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a platform that is part of regular diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region. He said the meeting would last about two hours and lay the groundwork for a face-to-face meeting in the second half of the year.
He also mentioned that India, Australia and Japan have all been “directly challenged by China” in recent times, adding that the meeting was designed to act on a “different vision of the future” for the region.
The 9-day meeting will take place just days before Secretary of State John Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are scheduled to visit Japan and South Korea in late March. The two men’s visit will be the first visit by a top U.S. foreign policy and defense official to an Asian ally since the Biden administration took office in January.
Beijing “activates” quadrilateral security dialogue
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the first meeting of the leaders of the Quartet on Sept. 9, saying the meeting would focus on regional security and climate change issues.
He told reporters, “This will be a historic moment for our region and sends a strong message that we support an Indo-Pacific region that respects sovereignty and is independent of each other.”
AFP reported that Japan said Kan had spoken separately to Modi on March 4 to express alarm over China’s “unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas” as well as the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
India’s foreign ministry said the leaders will discuss “regional and global issues of common concern and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation for maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” adding that the summit will also cover supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security and climate change.
In addition, India has urged other Quartet members to invest in their vaccine production capacity to counter China’s expanding vaccine diplomacy. The Indian statement said Quartet leaders will discuss ongoing efforts to combat the Epidemic and explore “opportunities for collaboration to ensure safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region.
Reuters reported that a senior U.S. official said the meeting is scheduled to announce a financing agreement to support increased production capacity for a Chinese communist virus vaccine in India.