China rails at 'dark history' of US intelligence as Biden order virus probe

In China strategy, Biden to meet with leaders of Australia, India, Japan

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Washington: US President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan on Friday. This is an important part of his efforts to deal with China’s growing military and economic power.

The White House said that the so-called four-nation virtual meeting will show that Biden attaches great importance to the Indo-Pacific region and focuses on the fight against the coronavirus and the way in which it cooperates on economic growth and the climate crisis.

India and Australia have emphasized the importance of regional security cooperation, which has been boosted by previous lower-level meetings of the four countries.

A senior Biden administration official told Reuters the meeting would announce financing agreements to support an increase in manufacturing capacity for coronavirus vaccines in India, something New Delhi has urged to counter China’s widening vaccine diplomacy.

The United States wants to strengthen ties with allies and partners as China adopts an increasingly assertive foreign policy in Asia and beyond. Washington says the additional vaccine capacity will be used in vaccination efforts in Southeast Asia, where Beijing is competing for influence.

The virtual meeting between Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will aim to lay the groundwork for an in-person meeting later this year, the administration said.

Among the problems to be solved is a supply chain that relied heavily on China during the pandemic.

Japan’s “Nikkei Shimbun” reported on Thursday that the four countries will work together to ensure that rare earth metals are essential for the production of electric cars and other products.

US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that the US and Japan will help fund Indian companies that make vaccines for US drugmakers Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson.

However, Indian government sources said U.S. curbs on exports of critical materials could hamper that effort and those to start large-scale distribution to Southeast Asia.

India, Australia and Japan have all faced security challenges from China, strengthening their interest in the four-nation alliance. Cooperation among them 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’s spreading influence. The United States hosted a foreign ministers’ meeting in 2019, that was followed by another in Japan last year and a virtual session in February.

Friday’s meeting coincided with a major diplomatic initiative by the United States to consolidate the alliance between Asia and Europe against China.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Anthony Brinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Japan and South Korea to hold the first meeting between senior Biden administration officials and US allies, emphasizing the importance of Washington’s challenge to Asia and China.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will meet with Blinken of Alaska next week with China’s top diplomat Yang Jie Yi and State Councilor Wang Yi. This is one of the two sparring countries during Biden’s administration. The first close contact between senior officials. .

Washington has said it will not hold back in its criticism of Beijing over issues ranging from Taiwan to Hong Kong and the genocide it says China is committing against minority Muslims.

Biden’s administration has committed to reviewing elements of policies toward China, in consultation with allies, as the world’s two largest economies navigate frosty relations that sank to their lowest depths in decades during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first phone call as leaders last month and appeared at odds on most issues, even as Xi warned that confrontation would be a “disaster” for both nations. 

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