Leaders of Japan, U.S., Australia, India to meet online Friday

Mar 10 , 2021. 4 hours ago – 05:43 KYODO NEWS

Composite photo shows (top row) U.S. President Joe Biden (Getty) and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, (bottom row) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – The leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India plan to meet virtually on Friday in what will be the first summit under the Quad grouping, the White House said.

Diplomacy among the four countries appears to be gaining traction as the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden seeks to rally its democratic allies and partners to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference Tuesday.

While Beijing is apparently growing wary of the collaboration, State Department spokesman Ned Price emphasized that the Quad is “not about any single competitor” or challenge.

“This is an entity forged and formed because we share common interests,” he told a separate press conference, adding, “Maritime security is of course an important one, but our shared interests go well beyond that.”

The coronavirus pandemic, economic cooperation and climate change are expected to be discussed in the online summit between Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release that the leaders will exchange views on areas of cooperation toward maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific while exploring opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable coronavirus vaccines in the region.

The summit will also provide an opportunity to exchange views on challenges regarding supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security and climate change, it said.

The Quad originally arose in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Efforts to revitalize the grouping have been seen in recent years, with increasing focus on advancing a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific with support for issues such as freedom of navigation and territorial integrity.

The announcement of the summit comes after the foreign ministers of the four countries held a phone meeting last month, the first such talks since Biden took office on Jan. 20.

During that meeting, the ministers agreed they “strongly” oppose unilateral and forceful attempts by China to alter the status quo in the East and South China seas, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

They also discussed the situation in Myanmar following the country’s Feb. 1 military coup as well as other regional issues such as North Korea.