The scheduling of the first-ever Quad leaders’ summit-level meeting within fifty days of the Biden administration signified the importance the administration places on the Indo Pacific, the White House said on Tuesday.
"That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo Pacific,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters about Friday’s virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.
The White House is expecting a range of issues to be discussed, including COVID-19 , economic cooperation and the climate crisis.
The Biden administration has, as one of its foreign policy goals, re-engaging with the world and not permitting a global leadership vacuum (it has suggested that one has been caused by the relatively isolationist foreign policy of the Trump administration). Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has repeatedly said that a leadership vacuum would either lead to chaos or one where other countries might step in and act in ways detrimental to American interests.
In his interim strategic guidance to administration agencies and departments issued earlier this month, President Biden had said that China was “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”
Yet the Biden administration has been careful to portray the Quad as something bigger than a grouping centred around the China challenge. It reiterated this position on Tuesday.
“It (Friday’s meeting) will showcase the Quad’s ability to pool our capabilities and build habits of cooperation to address some of those urgent challenges we face. Now at the same time, I would just note that the Quad is not about any single challenge. It's not about any single competitor,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a briefing. He was responding to a question on the extent to which the China-U.S. adversarial relationship would be discussed on Friday.
“This is an entity forged and formed because we share common interests. There, maritime security is of course an important one, but our shared interests go well beyond that. And I think you will see reflected in the agenda, the breadth of those shared interest in the aftermath of the Quad meetings,” he said.
Mr. Price also said the fact that President Biden was due to meet with his counterparts on Friday and that Mr. Blinken had already held discussions with his Quad counterparts in February, signaled the U.S.’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific.
“It was important for us to underline in the early days of this administration, our commitment to the Indo-Pacific as we've said from this podium, it's a region that holds tremendous promise for the United States. Also tremendous challenge. We see ourselves as a Pacific nation, we see ourselves as engaged in this region. We want to deepen that engagement and this is an important forum with important partners with whom we share a good deal of interest,” he said.