“Free and Open”: Quad Leaders Call for a “Stable” Indo-Pacific in Veiled China Excavation | US News


US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan highlighted their Quad group’s role in safeguarding a stable and democratic Indo-Pacific in a veiled dig against rival China.

The Quad’s first in-person summit on Friday marked Biden’s latest effort to consolidate U.S. leadership in Asia in the face of the rise of China.

Gathered in the Eastern Ceremonial Room of the White House, the four leaders discussed their Covid vaccine campaign, regional infrastructure, climate change and securing supply chains for vital semiconductors used in technology. computer science.

And although China was not mentioned, the growing American rival dominated much of the day.

“We liberal democracies believe in a world order that promotes freedom and we believe in a free and open Indo-Pacific, because we know this is what provides a strong, stable and prosperous region,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the start of the summit.

This phrase “free and open” has become the code to express the concern of major regional powers over the strengthening of China’s economic, diplomatic and military presence – including threats to vital international sea lanes.

“This event demonstrates the strong solidarity between our four nations and our unwavering commitment to the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the “shared democratic values” of their countries.

Biden, who often speaks about democracies having to prove their worth at a time of powerful autocracies in Russia and China, told the Quad they are on the front lines.

“We are four great democracies with a long history of cooperation. We know how to get things done and we are up to the challenge, ”he said.

For Washington, the Quad meeting marked another step in rekindling US attention to diplomatic efforts, following its dramatic exit from the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

And of the three regional groupings that Washington leads in its strategic chess game to manage the rise of China, the Quad is voluntarily the most open.

The other two are the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the latest to arrive on the block – Aukus.

Aukus was only unveiled last week and has so far focused on a plan for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines using US and UK technology. Although it will take years for the Australian Navy to secure the ships, the announcement sent waves around the world, angering China and separately sparking a furious feud with France, which saw its contract previously. negotiated for the sale of Australian conventional submarines rejected.

As the outcry over Australia’s nuclear submarine plan has died down, officials and leaders have been keen to stress that there is no military component to the Quad.

“It is not a military alliance. It is an informal grouping of democratic states, ”said a senior official in the US administration. “I think the concerns have been allayed and I think that on a general level this initiative is welcome across the region.”

Morrison, speaking to reporters, called the Quad a “very practical initiative.”

But – even though he still didn’t mention China directly – he made a specific statement that the Quad members were ready to resist “any pressure that might be placed on any of us.”

“We want this opportunity for all the countries of the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “They value their sovereignty. They value their independence, and it should be a shared project.

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