US President Joe Biden will hold an online meeting on Friday with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the first leader-level meeting of a four-country group, known as the Quad, which is seen as part of efforts to balance China’s growing military and economic power.
Washington is looking to strengthen ties with key allies and partners as China adopts an increasingly assertive foreign policy in Asia and elsewhere.
“The goal here is basically to introduce the Quad as a new feature of regular diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific,” a senior US administration official told Reuters.
He said the meeting planned to announce financing agreements to support an increase in manufacturing capacity for coronavirus vaccines in India, something New Delhi has urged to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy
The aim is to reduce manufacturing backlogs, speed vaccinations, and defeat some coronavirus mutations, the official said. Some of the additional vaccine capacity would be used in vaccination efforts in Southeast Asian countries.
India, Australia and Japan have all been “directly challenged by China in the recent period”, he said, adding that the meeting was intended to work on “a different vision for the future” in the region.
India’s foreign ministry said the leaders would address “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”.
It said Quad leaders would discuss efforts to combat the pandemic and explore “opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the meeting would focus on regional security and climate change.
“It will send a strong message to the region about our support for a sovereign, independent Indo-Pacific,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Friday’s meeting will take place ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Japan and South Korea later this month.