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Quad leaders to hold first meeting

Tokyo: The United States, Japan, India and Australia are working to have the first meeting of their leaders under the so-called Quad framework, amid China’s growing clout in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan’s Kyodo news service reported on Sunday, quoting a source from one of the countries involved.

The move comes as the new administration of US President Joe Biden appears eager to build on renewed attention to the grouping of the four major democracies, with his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan calling it ‘a foundation, upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific’.

According to the source, the US has already proposed to other countries the idea of holding an online meeting of the grouping.

Whether the talks will materialise soon is up to India, which is known for its relatively cautious stance on the framework.

It is the only Quad member that shares a land border with China and operates outside the US-led security alliances.

During the envisioned meeting, the participants are expected to discuss cooperation for the realisation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” amid concerns over China’s maritime assertiveness in the region.

Biden, who took office on January 20, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed during their phone talks that they would promote the Quad grouping, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Biden has also vowed to counter China’s economic abuses and aggressive behaviour by rebuilding alliances, though it is unclear how the Quad framework may evolve under his administration.

For the first time under the framework, the foreign ministers of the four countries met in New York in 2019. The second meeting was held in Tokyo in October last year, in the midst of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

After the talks in October, then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that his government hopes to “institutionalise” the Quad grouping, saying it has the capacity to ‘push back against the Chinese Communist Party’.

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