The United States and its allies vow to pursue a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific region at the top of the Quad
The leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia vowed on Friday to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific region “without being intimidated by coercion” at their first in-person summit, which presented a united front amid shared concerns about China.
The two-hour White House meeting of the Quad, as the grouping of the four major democracies is called, will be closely followed in Beijing, which criticized the group as “doomed.”
“We defend the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, the peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values and the territorial integrity of states,” said US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a joint statement after the talks.
While China was not mentioned in the public comments of the four leaders or in the lengthy joint statement and fact sheet issued subsequently, Beijing was clearly a priority.
His statement made frequent mention of leaders’ insistence on rule-based behavior in a region where China has been trying to show its muscles.
“Together, we re-commit ourselves to promoting free, open and rule-based order, rooted in international law and undeterred by coercion, to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” they said.
Quad leaders also expressed support for small island states, especially those in the Pacific, in order to enhance their economic and environmental resilience.
Furthermore, they urged North Korea to engage in diplomacy over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which Pyongyang has refused to do unless international sanctions are withdrawn.
Leaders took steps to expand vaccines around the world and welcomed India’s plan to resume exports in October.
After the meeting, Suga told reporters that the countries agreed to cooperate on vaccines, clean energy and space, and hold a summit every year.
Modi told fellow Quad leaders that India would allow the export of 8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October under an agreement the group reached in March to supply 1 billion doses to the Indo-Pacific. said the Indian Foreign Secretary.
The plan to supply one billion doses to Asia by the end of 2022 stalled after India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, banned exports in April amid a massive COVID outbreak in the country.
India has said that when it restarts vaccine exports it will give priority to the international COVAX vaccine initiative and neighboring countries.
The Quad announced several new pacts, including one to strengthen the security of the semiconductor supply chain and to combat illegal fishing and increase awareness of the maritime domain.
It also implemented a 5G partnership and plans to track climate change.
“Recognizing the role of governments in fostering an enabling environment for 5G diversification, we will work together to facilitate public-private cooperation and demonstrate by 2022 the scalability and cybersecurity of open standards-based technology,” said the leaders.
The meeting came just over a week after the United States, Britain and Australia announced an AUKUS security pact that will provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move strongly denounced by Beijing.
A Japanese government spokesman said Suga told the meeting that Japan believes that the AUKUS association is “assuming an important role for the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.”
US officials had tried to downplay the security aspect of the Quad ahead of the meeting, despite members holding naval drills together and sharing concerns about China’s growing power and attempts to put pressure on the four countries.
Morrison said AUKUS and Quad are “mutually reinforcing.”
He told reporters: “That is the goal of Quad and AUKUS. They are not there to replace anything, but to add to it ”.
In a briefing on Friday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry appeared to criticize the Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, as it is formally known.
“A closed and exclusive clique directed to other countries goes against the trend of the times and the aspirations of the countries of the region,” said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.
“He will not find support and he is doomed to fail.”
China has denounced the Quad as a Cold War construct and says the AUKUS alliance would intensify a regional arms race.