US President Joe Biden launched today, during a virtual summit with the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan, a joint initiative to curb China’s expansionist ambitions in the Pacific.
This is the first time that this informal alliance of the four countries, born in the 2000s to counteract China’s expansionist ambitions, has met at the highest level. “This is the first multilateral summit that I have the opportunity to organize, as President,” recalled Joe Biden at the opening of the videoconference with Japan’s prime ministers, Yoshihide Suga, India, Narendra Modi, and Australia, Scott Morrison.
“The United States is determined to work with all of our regional allies to ensure stability,” added Biden.
In another sign of the priority given to Asia by the USA, the Japanese Prime Minister will be, in April, the first foreign leader to be personally received in the United States by the new President, the two countries announced this Friday, clarifying that climate change and combating the covid-19 pandemic will be high on the meeting’s agenda. “We are launching an ambitious new partnership to boost vaccine production for the benefit of all, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region,” explained the American President.
Biden said the alliance of the four countries is committed to responding “to the serious needs of Southeast Asia, through complex financial vehicles that will allow a very important, frankly drastic increase in vaccine production capacities, up to one billion doses in 2022”. This effort will be based primarily on vaccine production in India and increased production of the US single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
With this initiative, the President of the USA tries to show that he is concerned with fighting the pandemic, not only within borders but also through international cooperation projects. At the same time, Washington intends to leave a sign of multilateralism in the effort to contain China’s expansionist ambitions in Southeast Asia.
None of the four leaders explicitly referred to China, but, in diplomatic jargon, insistence on expressions like “maritime security” and maintaining a “free and open” region suggest a commitment to counter Beijing’s control strategies. “We renew our commitment to ensuring that the region is governed by international law, maintains universal values , and is free from any coercion,” said Joe Biden, in a clear allusion to Beijing’s intentions, especially in the China Sea.
Scott Morrison considered that the meeting of these four democracies symbolizes “the dawn of a new era” for the region, while Narendra Modi assured that this group of countries will continue to be “an important pillar for stability”.
The summit for four also aims to demonstrate that Biden intends to maintain the climate of antagonism with Beijing, accentuated by his predecessor in the White House, Donald Trump. “If we do nothing, they will crush us,” Joe Biden had said in February after his first phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
There is, therefore, a Trump-Biden continuity in the “strategic competition” with the Asian giant, described as “the greatest threat to democracy” by both the Republican government of Trump and the Democratic government of Biden. However, the latter claims to want to differentiate itself by strategy, involving Washington’s allies in fighting Beijing’s ambitions.
Source: with Agencies