Reuters File Photo: July 15, 2021 A typical view of the White House in Washington, USA. Reuters / Jonathan Ernst / File photo
Written by Steve Holland, David Brunstrom, Nandita Bose and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia presented a united front at their first summit on Friday, stressing the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific region amid shared concerns about China.
The two-hour meeting at the White House in Quad, which is said to be a grouping of four major democracies, will be closely monitored in Beijing, which has criticized the group as “damaged for failing”.
The conference is expected to make progress on the Covid-1 vaccine, infrastructure and technical cooperation. Although the four leaders did not mention China in public, Beijing was clearly at the top of their minds.
“We stand together here, in the Indo-Pacific region, a region where we always want to be free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with international law,” said Scott. Morrison announced the start of the meeting. U.S. President Joe Biden first met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Oval Office and then told his quad partners that a vaccine initiative agreed at the Virtual Quad Summit in March was to “increase the total supply of 1 billion doses of vaccine in India”. “
Modi said the initiative would be a great help to the countries of the Indo-Pacific region. India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, banned exports in April amid a massive outbreak of covid in the country, and plans to supply one billion covid-1sh shots across Asia by the end of 2022 were scrapped.
India has said it is ready to resume vaccine exports in the October quarter, giving priority to Covax International Vaccine Initiative and neighboring countries.
Neither Biden nor any of the other leaders responded when asked when the vaccine supply would begin under the fourth initiative.
Referring to the stimulus initiative due to concerns about China, a senior U.S. official said the quad is expected to announce several new agreements, including supply chain protection for semiconductors and the fight against illegal fishing and raising maritime domain awareness. The group will also launch 5G partnerships and plans to monitor climate change.
Biden said the quad represents four “democratic partners who share a worldview and a common vision for the future.”
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the meeting showed strong solidarity between the countries and “their unwavering commitment to an independent and open Indo-Pacific Ocean.”
The meeting comes just a week after the United States, Britain and Australia announced an AUKUS security agreement under which Australia would be provided with nuclear-powered submarines, a move strongly condemned by Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian appeared at a briefing on Friday to criticize the quad. “A closed, monopoly cycle aimed at other countries goes against the trend of the time and the aspirations of the regional countries. It will get no support and will fail.”
Prior to the meeting, U.S. officials sought to undermine the Quad’s security – although its members conducted joint naval exercises and expressed concern about China’s growing power and its efforts to put pressure on the four countries.
China has called the quad the construction of a cold war and said the Akus alliance would intensify arms competition in the region.
After the quad talks ended, Vice President Kamala Harris held a joint meeting with Suga and Morrison, as Modi left Washington to return to New York for a UN meeting.
Sugao, who stepped down as Japan’s leader, was holding separate meetings with Biden after the fourth session.
The CPTPP wanted to discuss Suga’s recent efforts to join the Pacific Trade Agreement, a U.S. official said.