Biden welcomes Indo-Pacific leaders as China’s concerns grow

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is scheduled to host the first in-person gathering of the leaders of an Indo-Pacific alliance known as the “the Quad” as he wraps up a difficult week in diplomacy after facing much criticism from allies and adversaries.

The White House meeting with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia gives Biden a chance to highlight a primary foreign policy goal: greater attention to the Pacific in light of what the United States views China’s coercive economic practices and troubling military maneuvers in the region.

Executives are expected to announce a coronavirus vaccine initiative, plans to strengthen semiconductor supply chains, and a program to bring graduate and doctoral students in STEM fields to U.S. universities.

Ahead of the summit, the governments of Japan and India welcomed a recent announcement that the United States, as part of a new alliance with Britain and Australia, will equip Australia with submarines nuclear powered.

This will allow Australia to conduct longer patrols and give it an advantage over the Chinese Navy. But the announcement infuriated France, which accused the Biden administration of stabbing him in the back by canceling its own $ 66 billion deal to supply diesel-powered submarines.

Tensions between Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron eased after the two leaders met on Wednesday and agreed to take steps to coordinate more closely in the Indo-Pacific.

Michael Green, who served as senior director for Asia on the National Security Council during the administration of George W. Bush, said Japan and India welcome the US-UK-Australia alliance “Because for the next 50 years it will really reset the trajectories. in naval power in the Pacific and from the perspective of these countries stabilize things as China massively strengthens its naval forces. “

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called it a reflection of an “outdated zero-sum Cold War mentality and narrow geopolitical perception” that would intensify a regional arms race.

Beijing has also sought to promote the idea that the formation of the alliance indicates that the United States will favor Australia in the Quad at the expense of Japan and India, said Bonny Lin, senior security researcher in China. Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

China has also attempted to undermine the Quad as being out of step with other Southeast Asian countries and has described Quad members as “American pawns,” Lin said.

The White House meeting takes place as China continues its efforts to demonstrate force in the region.

Thursday, China sent 24 fighter jets to Taiwan after Taiwan announced its intention to join a Pacific trade group, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. China has also applied for membership.

During his busy week in diplomacy, Biden addressed the United Nations General Assembly and hosted a virtual global summit on COVID-19.

Biden and leaders of other wealthy countries have come under fire for slow global vaccinations and unequal access to vaccines between residents of rich and poor countries. The decline of leaders in low- and moderate-income countries came even as Biden announced plans to double his purchase of Pfizer vaccine to share with the world to 1 billion doses.

In addition to the Quad meeting, Biden is expected to meet separately with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is due to step down soon.

First Lady Jill Biden, who spent time with Suga during her visit to Japan for the Summer Olympics, is expected to be part of the reunion.

Modi plans to bring up Afghanistan, according to a person familiar with Modi’s agenda who was not allowed to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Modi is expected to raise objections to the Taliban’s efforts to gain recognition at the United Nations. The Indian government is also concerned about the influence it believes Pakistani intelligence services have had over the way Taliban factions have divided government offices in Kabul.

When the Taliban previously controlled Afghanistan, the group supported militants in Kashmir, a long-contested territory at the center of wars and skirmishes between India and Pakistan. The Haqqani network was behind two suicide bombings against the Indian embassy in 2008 and 2009. Members of the network, whom the United States has called a terrorist organization, have been appointed to senior positions in the within the Taliban government.

Suga is expected to discuss China, North Korea, Afghanistan, the response to COVID-19 and climate change, according to a Foreign Ministry official who has not been permitted to comment publicly and has spoken on condition of anonymity.

North Korea said last week it had successfully launched ballistic missiles from a train for the first time, hitting a target at sea some 800 kilometers (500 miles) away.

The test came after the North said this month it has tested new cruise missiles, which it intends to make nuclear-capable, which can strike targets 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, an distance putting all Japanese and American military installations within easy reach.

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Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed reporting.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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