Eyes on China as Quad Leaders Vow to Stand Together for Free and Open Indo-Pacific

Eyes on China as Quad Leaders Vow to Stand Together for Free and Open Indo-Pacific
(L–R) Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for photos at the entrance hall of the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan in Tokyo on May 24, 2022. (Zhang Xiaoyu/Reuters)
Melanie Sun

TOKYO—With all eyes on an increasingly assertive China, “Quad” leaders from the Indo-Pacific nations of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia met on Tuesday morning in Tokyo, Japan, to discuss mutual cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The four Indo-Pacific leaders vowed to stand together for a free and open region at the summit, and to work towards peace, prosperity, and stability in the region, while coordinating responses to challenges like energy, health, and cyber security, while addressing U.N. climate change predictions.

“This is what this is about, democracy vs. autocracy—we have to make sure democracy is delivered,” U.S. President Joe Biden said.

In addition to a working summit lunch with all four leaders, Biden will meet for bilateral talks with India and Australia, which has a newly-elected prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who was sworn in on Monday.

In the talks, Biden will look to “build on the commonalities” that he shares with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite differences on issues including Russia, according to an official. Meanwhile, Modi is also set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for talks and a working dinner.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet for the Quad Summit leaders at Kantei Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 24, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
U.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet for the Quad Summit leaders at Kantei Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on May 24, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Modi, in his remarks at the leaders’ summit, said that India would work toward the Quad’s shared vision of a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

“With this, the image of Quad as a ‘Force for Good’ will be strengthened even more,” he said.

Kishida, meanwhile, linked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to unilateral aggression on display from China in the Indo-Pacific, although he did not list China by name.

“Since we last met in person in September, an incident that overturns the rules-based international order has happened: the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the Japanese leader said. “It is a blatant challenge to the conditions set in the United Nations charter. We must not allow the same thing to happen in the Indo-Pacific.”

On the Ukraine war, Biden said it is currently a “dark hour in our shared history,” after which he said Russia’s aggression was more than just a European issue. “It’s a global issue,” he said. “As long as Russia continues the war, the United States will work with our partners to help lead a global response because it’s going to affect all parts of the world.”

The leaders welcomed Albanese to the alliance as the new Australian leader said his center-left government remained committed to the Quad. He takes over from the center-right Morrison government, which leaves a strong legacy of standing up for Australia’s liberal democratic values in the face of communist China’s aggressive authoritarianism, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pushes to uproot the international rules-based order with its so-called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Former leader Scott Morrison was the one to lead international calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of the COIVD-19 pandemic.

“The new Australian government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda, taking action on climate change, and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region through better economic security, better cyber security, better energy security and better environmental-and-health security,” Albanese said.

According to a White House fact sheet, six working groups have been outlined for future cooperation in the areas of COVID-19 response and global health security, climate, critical and emerging technologies, cyber, space, and infrastructure.
The leaders also announced the launch of the Quad Fellowship, which will sponsor 100 students from the four countries each year to study in the United States for graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Taiwan was not an official item on the Quad agenda, a U.S. official said, but it was expected to be a key topic when the four leaders meet a day after Biden broke with convention and committed U.S. military support for the self-governed island claimed by China’s ruling Communist Party, which is still at war with Taiwan.

India is the only Quad member to have abstained on a U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although it did raise concerns about the killing of civilians. India has a long-standing relationship with Moscow, which remains a major supplier of its defense equipment and some oil supplies.

But U.S. officials at the Quad will emphasize shared views on China, which the Indo-Pacific nations view as a bigger long-term challenge than Russia.

“The president is very aware that countries have their own histories, they have their own interests, they have their own outlooks, and the idea is to build on commonalities,” said a U.S. official.

India has developed close ties with Washington in recent years and is a vital part of the Quad grouping aimed at pushing back against Beijing.

The United States is considering “investment support” of $4 billion for India on top of billions of dollars extended earlier, New Delhi said on Monday, after the two sides signed an agreement for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, health care, renewable energy, financial inclusion, and infrastructure.

India also joined the United States and 11 other countries in U.S.-led economic talks called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
Reuters contributed to this report.