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Quad leaders hold first summit online  

All national papers reported extensively over the weekend on the first-ever quadrilateral summit between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India that was held remotely on Friday. As the chair of the landmark conference that was carefully choreographed to counter China’s growing influence, President Biden set the tone by saying: “We’re renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, and free from coercion.” The participants stressed that they are bound by such shared values as the rule of law and democracy. 

 

The four leaders agreed to implement a COVID-19 vaccination program for impoverished countries in Asia and Africa by providing them with 1 billion doses of vaccines manufactured by pharmaceutical companies in India and other countries in a bid to counter China’s “vaccine offensive” in the Third World. They agreed to hold an in-person session later this year. In a joint statement entitled: “The Spirit of the Quad” that was released afterwards, the participants emphasized their agreement to launch working groups on such issues as coronavirus vaccination, climate change, and emerging technology. With China’s unilateral and forceful attempts to alter the status quo in the South and East China Seas in mind, the leaders also pledged to promote mutual cooperation to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order.  

 

As India has been reluctant to make the quadrilateral format an anti-China coalition, the other three members reportedly avoided playing up security issues and instead focused on enhancing cooperation in such areas as the pandemic, the global economy, and the environment during the 100-minute meeting. National Security Advisor Sullivan told the press after the confab: “Today is a big day for American diplomacy, this summit is a big deal for the President and for the country…. The four leaders did discuss the challenge posed by China, and they made clear that none of them have any illusions about China.  But today was not fundamentally about China.  Much of the focus was on pressing global crises, including the climate crisis and COVID-19.” 

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