Biden seeks a “free and open” Pacific when he first meets Australia, India and Japan


Quad leaders said they stand up for freedom of navigation and overflight, and presented plans to tackle COVID-19 and limit carbon emissions

US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan on Friday vowed to work together for a stable, open and democratic Indo-Pacific in a veiled dig in China at their first in-person summit together.

In Biden’s latest effort to consolidate U.S. leadership in the face of China’s rise, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) agreed to move forward on a joint plan to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to across Asia, launched a new climate initiative and said the four nations would start holding annual summits.

Without any explicit mention of China, the leaders of the four democracies said in a joint statement that they were determined to “promote a free, open, rules-based order anchored in international law and fearless through coercion.”

Photo: EPA-EFE

“We defend the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, the peaceful settlement of disputes, democratic values ​​and the territorial integrity of States,” the statement said.

“Free and Open” has become the code for expressing concern over China’s growing economic, diplomatic and military presence – including threats to vital international sea lanes.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, speaking at the opening of the talks, said the four “liberal democracies” were working to build a “strong, stable and prosperous region”.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the summit showed the “common vision of the four nations of a free and open Indo-Pacific”, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose background in minority rights has been controversial in his country – praised the “Quad”. shared democratic values.

While leaders have carefully avoided publicly mentioning China, Suga expressed his “strong concern” during discussions of Beijing’s assertiveness at sea, its trampling of Hong Kong’s special status and its mass incarceration of the minority. Uyghur, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomoyuki Yoshida said. .

Biden, who often speaks of democracies having to prove their worth in an era of powerful autocracies in Russia and China, sought to show that the Quad is about action.

“We are four great democracies with a long history of cooperation. We know how to get things done and we are up to the challenge, ”he said.

India has said it will export 8 million single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of next month.

In virtual talks in March, Quad executives said they would deliver more than a billion vaccines by the end of next year, with India providing production, Japan and the United States on financing and Australia logistics.

On another key priority for Biden, Quad executives said the four nations will all make “ambitious” announcements at the upcoming Glasgow climate summit with the aim of bringing the warming planet to net zero emissions by here. 2050.

U.S. officials have said they do not view the Quad as a military alliance even as they seek to expand cooperation.

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