The US and three of its closest Indo-Pacific partners committed to supplying up to a billion coronavirus vaccine doses across Asia by the end of 2022 at a summit. It is being carefully choreographed to counter China’s growing influence.
The US, Australia, India and Japan – countries that are together known as the Quad – pledged at their first summit to work to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime, cyber and economic security, issues vital to the four democracies in the face of challenges from Beijing.
“We’re renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, and free from coercion,” Biden told his counterparts, without naming China.
In a joint statement, US President Joe Biden; Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, climate and security.
“We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion,” they added.
The leaders agreed to set up an experts’ group to help distribute vaccines, as well as working groups on climate change, technology standards, and joint development of emerging technologies. An in-person summit would be held later this year, they said.
India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the summit had agreed US vaccines would be manufactured in India, something New Delhi has called for to counter Beijing’s widening vaccine diplomacy.
A Quad fact sheet said the US, through its International Development Finance Corp, would work to finance Indian company Biological E to produce at least one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2022.
It also said Japan was in discussions to provide concessional yen loans for India to expand manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines for export.
Sullivan said the vaccines would go to Southeast Asian countries, elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific, and beyond.
The Biden administration told Reuters that the US and Japan would help fund Indian firms manufacturing vaccines for US drugmakers Novavax and J&J.
India, Australia and Japan have all faced security challenges from China, strengthening their interest in the Quad, whose cooperation dates back to joint responses to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004.
The group was revived under the Trump administration, which saw it as a vehicle to push back against China. The US hosted a foreign ministers’ meeting in 2019, which was followed by another in Japan last year and a virtual session in February.
The meeting coincided with a major US diplomatic drive to solidify alliances in Asia and Europe to counter China, including visits next week by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea.
(Edits by EP News Bureau)