Biden to host Quad leaders on sidelines of UN summit

WASHINGTON • US President Joe Biden is set to host the first in-person summit of leaders of the Quad countries - Australia, India, Japan and the United States - which have sought to boost cooperation to push back against China's growing assertiveness.

The summit will be held at the White House in Washington on Sept 24, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. The US visits of the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan - Mr Scott Morrison, Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Yoshihide Suga - will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which Mr Biden will address on Sept 21.

The world's largest diplomatic meeting, which was held virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be held this year with a hybrid in-person-virtual format. Around 100 leaders have said they will attend.

At the General Assembly, Mr Biden plans to propose an international summit dedicated to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, The Washington Post and Politico reported.

At an online meeting of the Quad leaders in March, member nations pledged to work closely on Covid-19 vaccines and climate and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of challenges from Beijing.

"Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the (US) administration's priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century," Ms Psaki said.

Mr Biden's Indo-Pacific coordinator, Mr Kurt Campbell, said in July that the long-planned in-person meeting should bring "decisive" commitments on vaccine diplomacy and infrastructure.

Mr Biden, who is pushing big infrastructure spending at home, said in March he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China's massive Belt and Road Initiative, which features projects from East Asia to Europe.

Ms Psaki said the Quad leaders would "be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating Covid-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyber space, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific".

A senior US official said infrastructure would be among a range of topics discussed at the in-person summit.

In Beijing yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "China believes any regional cooperation framework should go with the trend of the times and be conducive. It should not target any third party."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2021, with the headline 'Biden to host Quad leaders on sidelines of UN summit'. Subscribe