US President Joe Biden will hold first-ever joint talks Friday with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, boosting an emerging four-way alliance often cast as a bulwark against China. It will be one of the first summits, albeit in virtual format, for Biden, who has vowed to revive US alliances in the wake of the disarray of Donald Trump’s administration.
“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance that we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
The meeting of the so-called “Quad” comes amid rising tension with china, which is seen as flexing its muscle both in trade and security realms.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Biden was “taking this to another level.” “It will be an historic moment in our region and it sends a strong message to the region about our support for a sovereign, independent Indo-Pacific,” Morrison told reporters.
Both Psaki and India, which earlier announced the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that the talks would take up climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic — two key priorities for Biden.
The leaders will discuss “regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” the government said.
“The summit will provide an opportunity to exchange views on contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change,” read a statement from the foreign ministry.
The agenda will also include the ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The leaders will “explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region,” the government said.
At the last meeting of the Quad in October, the four nations had re-affirmed the importance of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of the border dispute with China and the southeast Asian giant’s aggressive military behaviour in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea.
Then US Secretary of state Mr Pompeo had taken a hard line on China, asking the participating nations to unite against Beijing’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion” in the region.
In February, Quad was discussed by PM Modi and Mr Biden when the US President dialled New Delhi. The two leaders had agreed to the need to strengthen Indo-Pacific security through the Quad grouping.
“The leaders agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,” the White House had said in a statement.