Quad leaders agree to meet annually in latest pushback against China
Written by tokyoclub on September 25, 2021
The first face-to-face meeting among the leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India at the White House in Washington on Sept. 24, 2021. (Kyodo)
The leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India on Friday decided to regularize their “Quad” summit meetings as they agreed to expand cooperation in areas ranging from space to infrastructure, in what is considered their latest pushback against China.
During the first-ever in-person summit of the group of major Indo-Pacific democracies, the four leaders also reaffirmed their progress toward supplying 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines across Asia as promised in their virtual summit in March.
“Together, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” the four leaders said in their joint statement released after the meeting, adding that their cooperation remains “unflinching.”
They also said in the statement that they will continue to champion adherence to international law to “meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order,” a veiled swipe at China’s assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
The meeting at the White House, hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, was attended by Japan’s Yoshihide Suga, who is soon stepping down as prime minister, as well as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Japan, the United States, Australia, India — this engagement is completely taking root,” Suga told reporters after the gathering, as he announced that the four leaders had agreed to hold a Quad summit every year.
(From L) Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison pose for a photo on Sept. 24, 2021, at the White House in Washington. (Photo courtesy of the Japanese Cabinet Public Relations Office)(Kyodo)
The move may suggest that the Quad, initially seen as a loose coalition of the four countries, is becoming more of a formalized group under the banner of advancing a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, where China has grown increasingly assertive.
The Biden administration has placed emphasis on the Quad as one of the “new configurations” designed to take on the challenges of the 21st century, along with the just-launched Indo-Pacific security partnership between Australia, Britain and the United States, dubbed AUKUS.
In the joint statement, the Quad countries said they will begin “new cooperation” in space, which will include sharing satellite data for peaceful purposes such as monitoring climate change and disaster response.
They also agreed to work to deliver “transparent, high-standards” infrastructure, bolster supply chain security for semiconductors and advance the deployment of “secure, open and transparent” 5G telecommunications networks.
The topics of discussion seemed to reflect concerns among the Quad members that the world’s semiconductor manufacturing capacity is largely concentrated in mainland China and elsewhere in East Asia. The United States believes technologies could be misused or abused by what it views as authoritarian countries such as China.
The meeting was also a chance for the leaders to update their efforts to meet their goal of delivering 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022 to Southeast Asia, with investments in Indian vaccine production capacity.
The commitment was initially made during the first Quad summit meeting in March, but uncertainties had emerged after India was hit by a surge of coronavirus cases with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which forced the country to halt vaccine exports in a bid to inoculate its population.
The Quad confirmed that its efforts are “on track,” welcoming India’s announcement to resume exports of vaccines, beginning in October.
The four countries also reaffirmed their commitment to the complete denuclearization of North Korea, urged Pyongyang to refrain from provocations and called on the country to “engage in substantive dialogue.”
The Quad was originally formed in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In recent years, the group has gained renewed attention as a counterweight to Beijing’s growing clout in the region.
During the previous U.S. administration under Donald Trump, the Quad held meetings at the foreign ministerial level.
But engagement has moved to the leaders’ level under the Biden administration as it seeks to rally U.S. allies and like-minded countries to address the challenges posed by China.
Suga, whose visit to the United States will be his final overseas trip before stepping down in early October, met separately with Morrison and Biden on Friday for bilateral talks. According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, he told the Australian leader that he welcomed the launch of AUKUS.