U.S. President Joe Biden discussed challenges posed by China with leaders from India, Japan and Australia in a meeting on Friday (March 12), White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Sullivan told reporters at a briefing that the virtual meeting between the Quad countries, a group central to Biden’s efforts to counter China’s growing military and economic power in the Indo-Pacific, did not focus on China, but touched on freedom of navigation in the East and South China Seas.
U.S. officials will also address issues raised Friday by Asian allies about China’s “coercion of Australia” and its “aggression on the border with India,” Sullivan said.
During his briefing with reporters, Sullivan also said the Biden administration is still gathering information on the scale of the hack on Microsoft Corp’s exchange. Sullivan said the administration will be able to attribute the cyber attack to those who executed it in the near future.
Microsoft has previously said the attackers are “state-sponsored and operating out of China.”
U.S. officials will raise concerns about Chinese actions on Hong Kong and security risks involving technology when they meet with Beijing’s top diplomats next week, Sullivan said.
The Quad leaders also committed to delivering up to one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Southeast Asia by the end of 2022, Sullivan said .
In a joint statement the leaders pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, climate issues and security.
“We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion,” they added, without mentioning China by name.
The meeting also agreed to set up a group of experts to help distribute vaccines, as well as working groups for cooperation on climate change, technology standards, and joint development of emerging technologies.
The leaders agreed to hold an in-person meeting later this year.
India, Australia and Japan have all faced security challenges from China, strengthening their interest in the Quad. Quad cooperation dates back to their joint response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004.
The Quad 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.
Friday’s meeting coincided with a major U.S. diplomatic drive to solidify alliances in Asia and Europe to counter China, including visits next week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea.
Blinken will also meet in Alaska with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and State Councillor Wang Yi – the first high-level in-person contact between the world’s two largest economies under the Biden administration.
(Production: Katharine Jackson)