Tue. May 17th, 2022

The leaders of the US, India, Japan and Australia, a group collectively known as the “Quad,” hailed on Friday their growing cooperation as they began their first-ever summit.

(Photo Courtesy: The Diplomat)

Despite the group’s repeated insistence that it is not targeted at any one nation, its emphasis on the rules-based international order and a “free and open Indo-Pacific” appears squarely aimed at China at a time when Beijing has grown increasingly assertive in the region, and has issued maritime claims in the South and East China Seas that have riled its regional neighbors.

When the group met virtually in March they issued a joint statement in which they emphasized their support for “the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight” – a not so oblique reference to Beijing’s maritime claims, and its creation of artificial, and sometimes militarized, islands that China has attempted to use to curtail freedom of navigation in and above international waters.

None of the leaders who gave brief remarks before beginning their closed-door session explicitly named China, but they repeatedly emphasized the importance they place on joint cooperation among democracies in the region at a time of mounting challenges.

“This group being of democratic partners who share a worldview, and have a common vision of the future, coming together to take on key challenges of our age: from Covid, to climate, to emerging technologies,” Biden said, “embodies an approach I spoke of at the United Nations earlier this week.”

“We’re making excellent progress,” Biden said.

The sentiment was echoed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said the Quad believes “in a free and open Indo-Pacific, because we know that’s what delivers a strong, stable and prosperous region so our citizens, our peoples can realize their hopes and dreams for their futures in a liberal and free society.”

“There is no part of the world that is more dynamic than the Indo-Pacific at this time,” he said. “We come together with great hope for what is ahead.”

In March, the leaders agreed to boost cooperation on vaccine distribution, and Biden said the Quad is “on track” to produce 1 billion additional doses in India “to boost global supply.”In addition to addressing the pandemic and regional security, Friday’s Quad White House gathering will address the challenges posed by climate change, 5G technologies, critical infrastructure and supply chains.

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