U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan – countries together known as the Quad have committed to supply a billion coronavirus vaccine doses across Asia by the end of 2022 on Friday at a meeting carefully choreographed to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
India, Australia and Japan have all faced security challenges from China, strengthening their participation in the Quad, whose cooperation dates back to their joint response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004.
The group was revived under the Trump administration, which saw it as a vehicle to push back against China. The United States hosted a foreign ministers’ meeting in 2019, which was followed by another in Japan last year and a virtual session in February.
The Quad have pledged to forge a free and open Indo-Pacific, including cooperation on maritime, cyber and economic security, all issues vital to the four democracies in the face of challenges from Beijing.
“We’re renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, and free from coercion,” Biden told his counterparts, without naming China.
His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, framed the virtual summit as a big day for U.S. diplomacy, as the U.S. looks to revitalize its alliances and approach Beijing from a position of strength ahead of a senior-level U.S.-China meeting in Alaska next week.
“The four leaders did discuss the challenge posed by China, and they made clear that none of them have any illusions about China,” Sullivan told reporters later, adding that they all believed democracy could outcompete “autocracy.”
A fact sheet issued after the meeting said the United States, through its International Development Finance Corp, would work to finance Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd to produce at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2022. The Biden administration told Reuters on Tuesday the United States and Japan would help fund Indian firms manufacturing vaccines for U.S. drugmakers Novavax Inc and J&J.