A senior US official told Reuters on Monday that US President Joe Biden will hold the first in-person summit of leaders from the “Quad” countries – Australia, India, Japan, and the US – next week.
The conference will take place on September 24 at the White House, according to the official. Australia’s, India’s, and Japan’s prime ministers – Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi, and Yoshihide Suga – are scheduled to visit the United States next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
A virtual meeting of leaders of the Quad countries, which have been seeking to enhance cooperation in the face of China’s growing power and assertiveness, was held in March. In that meeting, the leaders pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccines and climate and to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of challenges from Beijing.
“Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” the senior administration official told Reuters.
Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said in July the long-planned in-person meeting should bring “decisive” commitments on vaccine diplomacy and infrastructure.
Biden, who is pushing big infrastructure spending at home, said in March he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, which involves projects from East Asia to Europe.
The senior U.S. official said the Quad Leaders would “be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The vaccines initiative from the first summit stalled after India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, was hit by a catastrophic wave of infections and halted vaccine exports.
At the March summit, the four leaders agreed Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd would produce at least a billion coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of 2022, mainly for Southeast Asian and Pacific countries.
According to Japan’s Kyodo News, Suga will travel to Washington for the Quad summit this month, despite the fact that his time as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party – and, by extension, Japan’s prime minister – expires on September 30.
In April, Suga became the first leader to hold a face-to-face White House summit with Biden, emphasising Japan’s vital role in US efforts to confront China.
The Quad summit comes after Biden’s reputation has taken a beating as a result of the messy US departure from Afghanistan. Officials in the United States have stated that ending America’s longest conflict will allow the administration to redirect resources and focus to China-related issues.