Biden seeks a “free and open” Pacific with Australia, India and Japan


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – 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 during their first in-person summit together.

In Biden’s latest effort to consolidate US leadership in the face of a rising China, the so-called Quad has agreed to move forward with a joint plan to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to Asia, a new initiative has launched climate change and said the four nations will begin 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.”

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

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“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 eight million single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of next month.

“This is an immediate delivery of the Quad to the Indo-Pacific region,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters, promising to provide “quality and affordable” vaccines. Although small in numbers – Biden pledged earlier this week that the United States would donate an additional 500 million doses to the world – it represents the return of India’s giant pharmaceutical industry after New Delhi halted the drugs. exports to manage the country’s severe Covid epidemic. During virtual talks in March, Quad executives said they would deliver more than a billion vaccines by the end of 2022, with India providing production, Japan and the United States funding and Australia logistics.

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

India has so far only committed to reducing its carbon intensity, not necessarily its emissions, arguing that sweeping cuts are unrealistic for an emerging economy that is historically not responsible for most of global warming.

In a key area of ​​work, Quad executives said they would set up a task force to work to reduce emissions by 2030 in shipping, coordinating key ports in Los Angeles, Mumbai, Sydney and Yokohama. India has been the most cautious about perceptions it is ganging up on China despite mounting tensions following the deadly border skirmishes last year.

US officials stressed that they did not view the Quad as a military alliance even as they sought to expand cooperation.

The United States last week announced a new alliance – AUKUS – with Australia and Britain that will include the sharing of sensitive nuclear technologies.

Under AUKUS, Australia will acquire nuclear powered submarines. Although delivery is years away, the announcement sent waves around the world, angering China and separately sparking a furious feud with France which saw its previously negotiated contract for the sale of submarines. Australian conventional rejected.


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