With eye on China, Biden to meet Aus, India, Japan PMs

Washington: US President Joe Biden will hold first-ever joint talks on March 12 with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, boosting an emerging four-way alliance often cast as a bulwark against China.

“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance that we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

The meeting of the so-called “Quad” comes amid rising tensions with China, which is seen as flexing its muscle both in trade and security realms.

Both Psaki and India, which earlier announced the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that the talks would take up climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic — two key priorities for Biden.

“The leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Days before the first summit meeting of leaders of the Quad countries, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shared concerns over China’s “attempt to change status quo” in the East and South China Seas.

Ever since China came out with its new coast guard law in January, Japan has been concerned that it is targeted at Tokyo’s vessels in the region. However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had stated earlier this week that the law is not aimed at any country.

The Quad was launched in 2007 by Japan’s then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was alarmed at China’s growing assertiveness around Asia.

Biden has pledged in general terms to continue his predecessor’s hawkish line on China, including by pressing on human rights and territorial disputes.

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