CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday his first-ever meeting with President Joe Biden as well as the leaders of India and Japan will become an anchor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” representatives for the four member nations have met periodically since its establishment in 2007. That followed the nations providing relief to Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami there. But this virtual gathering early Saturday morning Australia time will mark the first time all four leaders will come together.
China has called the so-called Quad an attempt to contain its ambitions.
Morrison said there was no reason for China to object to the leaders’ meeting.
“This is about four nations that have had a long-term interest in the Indo Pacific. For us, this is where we live, this is where Japan lives, where India lives and of course with United States across the Pacific has had a long-term presence, so this is about an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and that benefits all nations of the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison told reporters.
“This is about ensuring that we can trade more easily and peacefully, that there is freedom of movement within the seas and the overflight of the area to ensure that there is facilitation, trade and movement across our great region and before these four nations, liberal democracies, standing up for our values, coming together and ensuring that we are an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Biden has said that he sees cooperation with U.S. allies in the region as a central focus of his strategy to deal with China’s growing economic and military strength. While Biden has said he wants a more civil relationship with Beijing, he’s shown no sign of softening former President Donald Trump’s confrontational measures on trade, technology and human rights.
“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we’ve placed on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he hoped the meeting would lead to peaceful development and regional cooperation.
“We hope that the relevant countries will act in line with the common interests of regional countries, uphold the principle of openness, inclusiveness and win-win outcomes, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace, stability and development, not the other way around,” he said.
China-Australian relations have plumbed new depths since Australia called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.