Pacific Pacts Galore: Quad Leaders Hold First In-Person Summit a Week After AUKUS Inaugurated
01:06 GMT 25.09.2021 (Updated: 11:59 GMT 26.10.2022)
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEINU.S. President Joe Biden listens as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a 'Quad nations' meeting at the Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework held in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2021.
The four heads of state of the Quad alliance took advantage of their attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York to hold their first in-person meeting on Friday. The meeting comes just days after two of the members, Australia and the US, signed a new pact with the United Kingdom called AUKUS.
Speaking from the White House in Washington, DC, US President Joe Biden said the Quad represented four "democratic partners who share a world view and have a common vision for the future."
"We stand here together, in the Indo-Pacific region, a region that we wish to be always free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are settled peacefully and [in] accordance with international law," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The language Morrison used follows American terminology used to justify a major strategic shift in US foreign policy over the last five years, which Washington has dubbed “great power competition” with Russia and China. The US has invited the three powers, as well as other regional nations, to join it in confronting and isolating the People’s Republic of China military, economically and diplomatically, organizing everything from sanctions to provocative “freedom of navigation” operations that deliberately flout Chinese claims of sovereignty.
According to Reuters, which cited a senior US official, the Quad is expected to soon announce several other new agreements between the members, including improving supply chain security for semiconductors and efforts to fight illegal fishing and “boost maritime awareness,” as well as cooperation on monitoring climate change and a new 5G high speed internet partnership.
The topics are all issues brought up in recent years in relation to China, which builds much of the world’s semiconductor chips, has a wide-ranging civilian maritime fleet, and has been accused of forcing its tech giants to spy on clients for the Chinese government.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summed up Beijing’s thoughts on the Quad, telling reporters Friday that “a closed, exclusive clique targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of regional countries. It will find no support and is doomed to fail.”
Beijing has in the past denounced American “faux-multilateralism” and urged for a more genuine exchange of ideas and cooperation toward common goals to lower international tensions.
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEINU.S. President Joe Biden hosts a 'Quad nations' meeting at the Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a 'Quad nations' meeting at the Leaders' Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2021.
Biden met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi separately before meeting with Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga later. He announced that their vaccine initiative intended to supply 1 billion vaccine doses across Asia by the end of next year was back on track. It was previously announced in March at the first Quad leaders’ summit, which was held virtually, but stalled just weeks later when India experienced a catastrophic outbreak of COVID-19 that killed upwards of four million people and saw New Delhi temporarily ban all vaccine exports.
Modi said vaccine exports would resume in the coming financial quarter, with the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, used to supply shots to the world’s poorest nations on the cheap, getting first priority. The WHO said last week that India’s export ban had left Africa, the world’s least-vaccinated continent, short by some 470 million shots.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla further clarified that New Delhi would allow the export of 8 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the next month.
Suga is also meeting separately with Biden to discuss China’s proposed entry to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the trade pact that replaced the TPP after then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of negotiations to found the pact in 2017. The US still has not returned to the deal.
Last week, Morrison and Biden joined with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce the AUKUS security agreement. While it is also widely believed to be aimed at China, the leaders did not explicitly mention the socialist state. However, Washington agreed to supply Canberra with nuclear submarines, which they have long sought to counter China’s increasing naval power and new fleet of advanced nuclear-powered submarines.
As a result of the deal, Australia canceled its purchase of conventional submarines from French defense firm Naval Group, which French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian called “a stab in the back.” Paris, a NATO member and ally of the US and UK, has expressed ire at supposedly being left out of the deal. However, no similar attitude has come from Japan or India, where Sringla dismissed such fears by pointing out the Quad and AUKUS have different purposes. Morrison has also said he believes AUKUS and the Quad complement each other.