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Quad leaders meet in Tokyo

Biden says US willing to respond 'militarily' in event of Chinese attack on Taiwan
02:24

What we covered

  • The four leaders of the “Quad” — the United States, Japan, India and Australia — are holding an in-person summit in Tokyo today.
  • The informal group is widely seen as part of the US’ efforts to counter China’s reach and territorial claims in the Indo-Pacific. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the war in Ukraine are also expected to be among the issues on the table.
  • Taiwan tensions also hang over the summit, after US President Joe Biden said Monday the US would intervene militarily if China attacked the democratic island.
  • The summit comes at the end of Biden’s first Asia trip since taking office.
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Quad leaders warn against militarizing the South and East China Seas

The four Quad leaders wrapped up today’s summit with a joint statement that vowed their “steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient.”

The statement also reflected on how rapidly the loose partnership has developed. After having largely fallen apart in 2008, the Quad was revived in 2017, and the leaders of the four members met for the first time last year.

Today marks their fourth joint event, and their second in-person summit, the statement said.

Veiled warning: The statement highlighted “challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas” — both waters that have long been contested, with overlapping territorial claims by numerous countries.

China claims almost all of the vast South China Sea as its sovereign territory. It has been building up and militarizing its facilities there, turning islands into military bases and airstrips, and allegedly creating a maritime militia that could number hundreds of vessels.

Meanwhile, in the East China Sea, China claims sovereignty over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyu Islands. In recent years, the US has reiterated its promise to defend the islands in the event of foreign aggression.

The statement did not include any explicit mention of China, but offered a veiled warning: “We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area, such as the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities.”

War in Ukraine: The leaders also discussed their responses to the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, and “reiterated our strong resolve to maintain the peace and stability in the region,” the statement said. “We underscored unequivocally that the centerpiece of the international order is international law, including the UN Charter, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.”

Asia crises: The statement also condemned North Korea’s recent surge in missile testing; called for an end to violence in Myanmar, where the military seized control in a coup last year; and pledged to continue cooperating on pandemic response, infrastructure investment, climate action and more.

Analysis: The Quad's militaries, assessed

Aircraft carriers and warships participate in the second phase of the Malabar naval exercise, a joint exercise comprising of India, the United States, Japan and Australia, in the Northern Arabian Sea in 2020.

Though not a formal military alliance, the armed forces of the Quad joined together represent a formidable group.

The United States has Asia-Pacific’s most powerful military, according to the 2021 Asia Power Index from the Lowy Institute, an independent Australian think tank.

The index puts India as the fourth most powerful of 26 nations in its rankings. Japan ranks seventh and Australia eighth.

China, the country seen as the Quad’s biggest concern, ranks second.

“For the purpose of this index, power is defined as the capacity of a state to direct or influence the behavior of other states, non-state actors, and the course of international events,” the Lowy Institute says.

When looking specifically at military capabilities, the index measures defense spending, military and paramilitary forces, training, readiness and sustainment, combat experience, command and control capabilities, weapons and platforms, signature capabilities and Asian military posture.

The US rates at the top of all those categories except military and paramilitary forces, where India, with more than 3 million troops, ranks No. 1.

Australia’s top ranking is No. 3, for both combat experience and command and control.

Japan’s highest rank is No. 5 for weapons and platforms.

In its key findings, the Lowy report notes, “US partners are enhancing their collective deterrence to support a military balance. Yet Asia’s deepening security dilemma presents a significant risk of war.”

Looking at China’s overall influence in the region, which measures economic and diplomatic influence among other factors, the 2021 survey saw a decline in Beijing’s sway.

“China’s comprehensive power has fallen for the first time, with no clear path to undisputed primacy in the Indo-Pacific,” the key findings say.

The Quad fell apart a year after it formed — then was revived a decade later

Leaders of the Quad nations meet in the East Room of the White House on September 24, 2021 in Washington, DC.

The Quad has its roots in the response to the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, when the four countries set up a “regional core group” to help relief efforts. But the partnership in its current form was created in 2007, and held its first meeting in May that year.

In a speech several months after that first meeting, Japan’s then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described his vision of a “broader Asia … an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the United States of America and Australia.”

The countries shared “fundamental values” such as freedom and democracy, and common strategic interests, he said.

The initiative fell apart in 2008 under intense pressure from China and the threat of economic retaliation, said Cleo Paskal, a non-resident senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

But it was revived in 2017 amid renewed concerns about China’s rapid rise as a global superpower and Beijing’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy.

Since then, the group has grown more active, with the four heads of state holding a symbolic virtual meeting in March 2021 — then meeting in person for the first time in September that year.

Analysis: Biden finds unity abroad. He's losing it at home

US President Joe Biden’s crusade against authoritarian leaders abroad is complicated, constantly, by the messiness of his democracy at home.

The leader who so forcefully condemns aggressors and so completely marshals the world community against Russia notoriously failed to marshal the senators he needed to enact a lasting domestic agenda.

He’s bent on ensuring that the Ukrainian and Taiwanese people can choose their own leaders in free elections, but a shocking number of Republicans continue to reject his own election victory.

He sputters trying to explain a teetering economy to Americans, which could cost his party control of Congress in elections later this year.

The Senate is so paralyzed by the filibuster, which gives a minority the ability to squash legislation, that no elected leaders seem to be seriously talking about federal legislation to deal with some of the largest American problems:

To name a few.

Read the full analysis:

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Analysis: Biden finds unity abroad. He's losing it at home

Biden and Albanese discussed Ukraine in their bilateral meeting

US President Joe Biden’s first meeting with his new Australian counterpart focused in part on the war in Ukraine, according to a White House statement.

Biden “commended Australia’s strong support for Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and the leaders agreed on the importance of continued solidarity, including to ensure that no such event is ever repeated in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

They also agreed to “work closely” on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — Biden’s new economic plan for the region — and to address “the existential threat posed by climate change,” the statement added.

This is Albanese’s first diplomatic event as Prime Minister, after being sworn in on Monday.

Biden condemned the war in Ukraine during his meeting with Modi

US President Joe Biden “condemned Russia’s unjustifiable war against Ukraine” during his bilateral meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the White House said in a statement.

“The leaders committed to continue providing humanitarian assistance, and discussed how to cooperate to manage disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine, in particular the rise in energy and food prices, to protect their respective citizens and the world,” the statement said.

Modi has been reluctant to condemn the war in Ukraine. India and Russia have long had friendly relations, with New Delhi reliant on Russian-made arms.

The two leaders also addressed other topics during their meeting, according to the White House, including economic cooperation, action on climate change, and vaccine production in India.

What defense relationships do Quad nations have with each other?

Shigeru Yoshida, Prime Minister of Japan, signs the Bilateral Security Treaty with the United States in San Francisco, on Sept. 8, 1951.

The Quad itself is not a formal military alliance, but alliances and agreements exist among its members.

US and Japan: Foremost among these is the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, a document signed in 1951 at the same time as the Treaty of San Francisco, which formally ended World War II.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) calls the US-Japan pact “the cornerstone of U.S. security policy in East Asia for decades.” Article IV of the treaty commits Washington to defend Japanese territory and Japan to defend US forces within its territories.

And those forces are substantial. According to a November report from the CFR, more than 60,000 US active duty military personnel and Department of Defense civilians are permanently stationed in Japan, more than any other foreign country.

US and Australia: Australia also shares a mutual defense treaty with the US: the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty, or ANZUS Treaty, signed in 1951.

While the US and New Zealand no longer have a security relationship through ANZUS, US-Australia links have remained strong, with Canberra even invoking its defense clause to help Washington respond to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the US.

In a webpage about what it calls US-Australia “mateship,” the Australian Embassy in Washington notes that 500 Australian defense personnel are stationed in the US while US Marines are stationed in Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Apart from the US, the other Quad countries have been setting up bilateral security arrangements.

Japan and Australia: In January, Canberra and Tokyo signed a “reciprocal access agreement,” which streamlines procedures for their militaries to access each other’s facilities and enhance joint exercises and training.

That pact built upon a joint security declaration of 2007, under which the two set up joint defense exercises and agreed to cooperate on areas such as maritime and aviation security and counterterrorism among others.

India and Australia similarly agreed on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2020. Part IV of that pact said, “both sides agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defense cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges.”

India and Japan: Also in 2020, India and Japan signed an Agreement on Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services, which makes it easier for the two countries’ militaries to share logistics in joint endeavors.

And Washington and New Delhi have been forging stronger ties in recent years. At a meeting of their defense ministers in Washington earlier this year, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new pact to cooperate in space, deepen cooperation in cyberspace and expand “information sharing partnership across all warfighting domains.”

Biden congratulates Albanese on Australian election victory ahead of bilateral meeting

US President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a bilateral meeting alongside the Quad Summit at Kantei Palace, in Tokyo, on Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden congratulated newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in remarks delivered ahead of their closed-door bilateral meeting on Tuesday.

Albanese was elected on Saturday and sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday.

Biden thanked Albanese for arriving at the Quad summit so soon after taking office, and praised the US-Australia relationship as an anchor of prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Albanese then spoke, sharing a story about a program he participated in as a young man in his 20s, during which he spent five weeks in the United States.

During the course, he studied the interaction of different groups with the US government — and “I did everything from the National Rifle Association …. to Planned Parenthood,” he said. “Across the spectrum.”

Biden stood up and pretended to walk off, eliciting laughter from reporters, before smiling and shaking Albanese’s hand. “You’re a brave man,” he said.

Albanese also praised the longstanding US-Australia alliance, which marked its 70th anniversary in 2021. He added that he looked forward to welcoming Biden and the leaders of India and Japan at the next Quad summit, which will be held in Australia in 2023.

Biden and Albanese are about to hold their bilateral meeting

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are now delivering opening remarks before their bilateral meeting behind closed doors.

Albanese is fresh to the job, having just been elected Prime Minister Saturday and sworn in Monday — right before the Tuesday summit.

Biden says US and India will "continue consulting closely" on Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting alongside the Quad Summit at Kantei Palace in Tokyo on May 24.

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered remarks to reporters before heading into a bilateral meeting, with both leaders praising their countries’ relationship and laying out several areas of cooperation.

Biden spoke first, highlighting the newly-unveiled Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, his economic plan for the region, as well as ongoing efforts to support Covid-19 vaccine production in India.

He then raised the war in Ukraine — a major theme at today’s summit.

Biden said he and Modi would discuss the effect the war has had “on the entire global world order.”

“The US and India are going to continue consulting closely on how to mitigate these negative effects,” Biden said.

“There is so much that our countries can and will do together, and I’m committed to making the US-India partnership among the closest we have on Earth.”

India is the only Quad member yet to condemn Russia’s actions or impose sanctions on Moscow.

Modi delivered his remarks next, calling Quad meetings this morning “very positive and productive.” He praised the US-India relationship as “a partnership of trust” and force for global good, highlighting their “common interests and shared values” as well as economic cooperation.

He did not mention the war in Ukraine.

A quip from Biden: After the two leaders spoke, they continued sitting for a moment to allow press photos — a brief silence broken almost immediately by reporters shouting questions about Russia.

“Will you push Prime Minister Modi to take a tougher stance on Russia?” one journalist said. Another asked: “Did you ask Prime Minister Modi to wean himself off of Russian oil?”

Neither leader answered — but Biden gave Modi a wry look, raised his eyebrows, and said: “Welcome to the American press.”

Watch: These are the key issues at the talks

01:25

Biden and Modi are now holding their bilateral meeting

US President Joe Biden is now holding his first of two bilateral meetings today, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Biden will meet later this afternoon with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Quad will have to navigate India's close ties with Russia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at Hyderabad House, on December 6, 2021 in New Delhi, India.

The Quad summit is taking place exactly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine — and experts say the war will likely be a major issue on the table.

But not all Quad members are aligned on the conflict.

The United States, Australia and Japan have all taken strong stances against the war, imposing sanctions on Russia and its oligarchs. But India, like China, has refused to condemn the invasion outright, and abstained from voting on UN resolutions demanding Moscow stop its attack.

India’s response has illuminated Russia’s outsized influence in Asia, where arms sales and no-strings-attached trade have allowed Moscow to exploit regional fault lines and weaker ties to the West.

Why India is tied to Russia: India has long enjoyed friendly relations and a close defense relationship with Moscow; most estimates suggest more than 50% of India’s military equipment comes from Russia.

These supplies are vital, given India’s border tensions with both China and Pakistan. Experts say India isn’t looking at the situation in Ukraine in terms of their relationship with that country — it’s thinking about the dangers in its own backyard.

The rest of the Quad: India’s position has caused “a significant amount of frustration” among the other three bloc members, said Ken Jimbo, a professor in the faculty of policy management at Japan’s Keio University.

But, he added, but “it also reminds us that we do not really have the luxury to lose India from the Quad — so obviously, we are going to pursue what we can agree (on) at this point together with India.”

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Analysis: Russia's attack on Ukraine reveals fault lines in Asia

The war in Ukraine colors Biden's Asia trip

President Joe Biden speaks at the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity launch event at the Izumi Garden Gallery on May 23 in Tokyo.

After months of all-consuming attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine, Joe Biden’s debut visit as President to Asia is an opportunity to renew what he views as this century’s challenge: Confronting a rising China through a system of renewed economic and military partnerships.

“We think this trip is going to put on full display President Biden’s Indo-Pacific strategy and that it will show in living color that the United States can at once lead the world in responding to Russia’s war in Ukraine, and at the same time chart a course for effective, principled American leadership and engagement in a region that will define much of the future of the 21st century,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters last week, before Biden departed for Asia.

Administration officials have acknowledged that senior foreign policy leaders inside the administration, along with the President himself, have been preoccupied over the past months with maintaining a united Western front against Russia and providing Ukraine military and economic assistance.

But Sullivan discounted the suggestion that Biden had been distracted from his Asia initiatives.

“We actually don’t regard this as a tension between investing time, energy and attention in Europe and time, energy and attention in the Indo-Pacific. We regard this as mutually reinforcing,” Sullivan said.

“For us, there is a certain level of integration and a symbiosis in the strategy we are pursuing in Europe and the strategy we’re pursuing in the Indo-Pacific and President Biden’s unique capacity to actually stitch those two together, is, I think, going to be a hallmark of his foreign policy presidency.”

Australia will host the next Quad summit in 2023, Prime Minister Albanese confirms

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks the Quad leaders summit in Tokyo, on Tuesday. 

Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted a photo of himself with the three other Quad leaders on Tuesday, confirming they would meet again in Australia next year for a third summit.

“Today I had the pleasure of meeting with (Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) at the Quad Summit in Tokyo,” he wrote in the post.
“We affirmed our shared commitment to the Quad, and to a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific. I look forward to hosting Quad Leaders in Australia in 2023,” he said.

Today is the second time the four leaders have held an in-person summit; their first meeting was in September last year.

Analysis: Were Biden's comments on defending Taiwan a hidden message for allies in Asia?

US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on May 23.

US President Joe Biden’s comment in Tokyo on Monday that Washington would intervene militarily if China attacks Taiwan sent shockwaves through the region.

That’s because it appeared to be a marked change from a decades-old policy of “strategic ambiguity,” under which the US has remained deliberately vague about whether it would come to the democratically ruled island’s defense in the case of an attack by China.

The White House swiftly walked back the comments, saying they did not in fact reflect a change in policy — a move that suggested either Biden had misspoken or that his comments were misconstrued.

But at least one analyst who spoke to CNN wonders if the apparently mixed messages are part of a deliberate plan by the White House to communicate its support to allies in the region while avoid crossing China’s red lines.

Corey Wallace, assistant professor at Kanagawa University in Japan, pointed out that this was the third time in recent months that Biden had said the US would protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack — and the third time his comments had been hastily reeled in.

The fact that Biden continues to make such statements may indicate a pattern — and be a way of communicating different messages to different audiences, he added.

The US’ policy of “strategic ambiguity” is designed to avoid antagonizing China, which is adamant the democratically self-ruled island of Taiwan is part of its territory, despite never having ruled it.

Beijing has pointedly not ruled out taking the island by military force, so it’s not surprising that Biden’s comments were celebrated in Taiwan.

Given the comments seemed to raise the possibility of a military clash between the US and China, it’s also not surprising that China responded angrily — warning Washington that “those who play with fire will certainly burn themselves”.

Asked on Monday at a news conference in Japan if Washington would come to Taipei’s aid in the event of a Chinese military move on the island, Biden had said, “That’s the commitment we made.”

He also compared a potential invasion of Taiwan by China to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, warning, “It will dislocate the entire region.”

Wallace, like other analysts, felt the reference to Ukraine was particularly provocative to China.

“[The] United States has not recognized Taiwan’s status as a sovereign country, and considers Taiwan’s status as ‘unsettled’ — quite different from how it views Ukraine,” Wallace said.

But again, while this appears to undermine the policy of “strategic ambiguity,” there also appears to be a get-out clause.

“Biden could probably spin this as meaning an invasion of Taiwan would be like Ukraine in terms of unsettling the security environment,” Wallace said. 

Watch Biden’s comments on Taiwan:

02:24

The war in Ukraine has turned a spotlight on Taiwan, with tensions looming over the Quad summit

A Taiwan Navy Tuo Chiang-class corvette shoots decoy flares during a military exercise off the shore in Keelung, Taiwan, on Jan. 7.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait loom over the Quad summit in Tokyo today.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei are at the lowest point in decades, with the Chinese military in recent months sending record numbers of warplanes near the self-governing democratic island.

And US President Joe Biden’s comments on Monday — suggesting the United States would be willing to defend Taiwan militarily if China attacks — quickly caught Beijing’s attention.

“On issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for compromise,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“We urged the US side to earnestly follow the ‘One China’ principle … be cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signal to pro-Taiwan independence and separatist forces — so it won’t cause serious damage to the situation across the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations.”

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian added, “We urge the US to stop saying or doing anything in violation of the ‘One China’ principle and the three China-US Joint Communiqués … Those who play with fire will certainly burn themselves.”

Ukraine comparisons: Some experts have drawn parallels between China-Taiwan tensions and the ongoing war in Ukraine following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

In March, Taipei’s foreign minister warned that Beijing was closely watching Ukraine to evaluate its own strategy toward Taiwan.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own, despite the island never having been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party — and has not ruled out taking it by force.

“The danger will be that the Chinese leaders think that the Western reaction to the Russian aggression is weak and not coherent, and not having any impact. The Chinese might take that as a positive lesson,” Wu said.

China-Russia ties: China has repeatedly refused to condemn Russian actions in Ukraine or impose sanctions on Moscow. Earlier this month, China’s Foreign Ministry criticized the UN for adopting a resolution on Russian abuses in Ukraine, accusing the body of “double standards” and of tolerating aggression by some nations while condemning others.

Human Rights Watch: The Quad has its hands full with crises in Asia

Police use water cannon to disperse student protestors in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on May 19.

In a statement last week, Human Rights Watch urged the Quad leaders to “address human rights crises and democratic backsliding in Asia.”

“The Quad needs to place Asia’s massive human rights and humanitarian crises at the heart of its discussions and decisions,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at HRW. “Genuine security in the region depends on people in Asia being able to fully exercise their fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.”

The statement highlighted several pressing issues in the region:

  • Myanmar: HRW urged Quad leaders and other partners in Southeast Asia to “pressure the junta to end its abuses” and impose sanctions on oil and gas revenues. The Myanmar military took power in a coup last February that led to months of protests and a brutal crackdown — upending a decade of tentative democratic and economic reforms.
  • Afghanistan: HRW also urged the Quad to press the Taliban, which seized control of Afghanistan last August. Despite pledging to protect the rights of girls and women, the Taliban has since stripped away many of their freedoms, banning girls from attending school, ordering women to cover their faces in public, and prohibiting all dramas, soap operas and entertainment shows featuring women.
  • North Korea: The Quad should integrate any human rights issues into their future negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and discuss providing support to the country amid its ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, the statement said.
  • Sri Lanka: HRW urged the Quad to support economic programs in the crisis-hit nation, which has been battling an economic downspin for months. Protests have been continuing since March, with people calling for the president’s resignation as they face shortages of food, fuel and other basic supplies.
  • The Quad: The group is not exempt from criticism, with “many deficiencies in their own records,” said HRW, which urged the four countries to address their “serious human rights issues.”

All four Quad countries have had recent disputes with China

A Chinese air strip is visible beside structures and buildings on Mischief Reef in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, March 20, 2022.

The Quad has increasingly been seen as a counterweight to China’s growing reach in the region, with all four nations experiencing turbulent relations with Beijing over the past few years.

  • India and China have had frosty relations since May 2020, when soldiers from both sides were involved in a bloody clash along their disputed Himalayan border that left at least 20 Indian and four Chinese troops dead.
  • Australia and China have been involved in a series of trade spats since Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19. Military tensions also spiked last November when Australia said it was entering a pact with the US and the UK to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. Most recently, China struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands, a tiny nation in the Pacific — raising alarm in Australia, which potentially faces the prospect of Chinese ships docking in an area Canberra regards as its backyard.
  • Japan and China remain at odds over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Although the territorial dispute stretches back more than a century, China has increased its presence around the islands, especially in recent decades. Japan has also previously expressed concern over tensions in the Taiwan Strait, emphasizing the importance of peace in the region in a joint statement with the US this week.
  • The US and China have also experienced a steadily deteriorating relationship, exacerbated by a trade war, pandemic finger-pointing, military saber-rattling over Taiwan and diplomatic spats. These tensions have only been heightened after US President Joe Biden said Monday that the US would defend Taiwan militarily if China attacked — which the White House walked back afterward.

China’s response: The strategic location of each of the Quad nations — at different corners of the Indo-Pacific and with China in between them — has rattled Beijing, which fears the potential for military encirclement. It has condemned the bloc as an anti-China “clique” that is emblematic of a “poisonous” Cold War mentality.

Heightening these tensions, China has reiterated its territorial claims and taken a harder line in response to perceived challenges. In recent years, China has built up its military positions in the South China Sea, despite a UN tribunal dismissing its territorial claims in the waterway. It has also ramped up threats against Taiwan — a self-governing island the Chinese Communist Party sees as part of its territory despite never having ruled it — and has sent fighter jets into its air defense zone.

"Pawns of US hegemony:" Beijing lashes out at the Quad before key summit

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a news conference in Beijing on March 7. 

Alarmed by the growing ties between the Quad countries, Beijing will be closely watching the summit in Tokyo today.

In the lead-up to the meeting, China’s Foreign Ministry lashed out at the group for “destabilizing” the region, while putting the blame squarely on Washington.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy cooked up by the United States, in the name of ‘freedom and openness,’ is actually keen on forming cliques,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday as US President Joe Biden wrapped up his trip to Seoul and headed to Tokyo.
“It claims that it intends to ‘change China’s surrounding environment,’ but its purpose is to contain China and make Asia-Pacific countries serve as ‘pawns’ of US hegemony.”

On Monday, Biden suggested the US would be willing to defend Taiwan militarily if China attacks.

Under the “One China” policy, the US acknowledges China’s position that Taiwan is part of China but has never officially recognized Beijing’s claim to the self-governing island. The US provides Taiwan defensive weapons but has remained intentionally ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

Wang called US moves on Taiwan and the South China Sea — where Beijing’s territorial claims have brushed up against Washington’s insistence on free and open waters —  “particularly dangerous,” claiming they are aimed at destabilizing the region.

Economic plan: Wang also commented on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) — Biden’s economic plan for countering China in Asia — saying while Beijing is happy to see proposals conducive to regional cooperation, it is opposed to attempts to create division.

“The gigantic market of 1.4 billion people in China will continue to be fully open to other countries in the region, and this mutually beneficial and win-win path will become even broader,” he said.
“Anyone attempting to isolate China with some framework will only isolate themselves. Rules made up to exclude China are bound to be abandoned by developments of our time.”

Biden says "strategic ambiguity" toward Taiwan hasn't changed

The four leaders’ announcement of the Quad Fellowship, a new scholarship program offered to students of the member nations, was waylaid somewhat when reporters in the room posed a different question: What did Biden mean about Taiwan?

US President Joe Biden sent shockwaves through the region yesterday, when he said the United States would intervene militarily if China attacked the self-governing democratic island —  appearing to shift from the deliberate ambiguity traditionally held by Washington.

The White House later walked back his comments, and said the US’ official position remained unchanged.

After Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida finished speaking about the Quad Fellowship, there was a stretch of quiet as the four leaders posed for photos — before CNN’s Jeremy Diamond asked, “Mr. President, is the policy of strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan dead?”
After a beat, Biden responded: “No.”
“Could you explain?” Diamond prodded.
“No,” Biden repeated.

Another reporter asked if Biden would send troops to Taiwan in the event of an attack — to which the President responded, “The policy has not changed at all and I stated that when I made my statement.”

Diamond can be heard pushing Biden to explain what he meant by intervening militarily —  but an event moderator then declared the event over, with the four leaders leaving shortly after.

Leaders announce new Quad Fellowship for 100 students from four member nations

US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese listen to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announce the Quad Fellowship, during the Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo, on Tuesday.

The four leaders have emerged from their closed-door meeting, and just announced a new initiative to reporters: The Quad Fellowship.

The fellowship will sponsor 100 American, Japanese, Indian and Australian students to study a graduate degree in STEM fields in the US, with applications now open until June 30 this year.

“(I wish) this fellowship will become a bridge that connects our four nations, and that empowers us to lead and to grow so that we can resolve any challenges in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The four leaders posed for photos and shook hands before leaving the media area.

Quad to unveil new initiatives include scholarships and sharing of space data

The Quad is unveiling a number of new initiatives at today’s summit in Tokyo, including an educational program and cooperation in outer space. Here are the main announcements to note:

  • The Quad Fellowship: This new program will sponsor 100 students from the four countries to study graduate STEM degrees in the United States. Applications for the fellowship and its scholarships are now open, and will close on June 30 this year. The first class of fellows will begin their studies in autumn 2023.
  • The Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA): This major maritime initiative focuses on providing the four countries — and their regional partners — with a faster and clearer picture of what’s happening in their waters.
  • The vaccine partnership: The Quad has collectively provided 257 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the Indo-Pacific, according to a White House statement. The bloc will continue to provide doses to the region, and support a $100 million facility to boost the Indian health care sector.
  • Space cooperation: The four nations are also committing to sharing space-based Earth observation data, which include US programs on oceanic and atmospheric monitoring, flood mapping, and land imaging.

Other announcements include stronger efforts to address climate change and critical emerging technologies, strengthen regional supply chains, build the four nations’ cybersecurity capabilities, and launch an infrastructure coordination group.

The Quad leaders are now meeting behind closed doors

U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attend the Qua summit in Tokyo on May 24.

After concluding this morning’s opening remarks, the four Quad leaders are now holding a closed-door meeting at Kantei Palace, the summit venue in Tokyo.

A senior US official said the collective will announce new initiatives as part of their meeting, including on maritime awareness and Covid-19 vaccines.

And US President Joe Biden will likely speak to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about how to strengthen bilateral ties — perhaps hoping to wean New Delhi off its reliance on Russian arms. India is the only Quad nation that has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

If today’s summit is like past meetings, the leaders will have “very direct very candid conversations,” the official. “I think that we’ve all been impressed how comfortable the leaders are with each other and how comfortable they are having very, very serious conversations.”

Japan's Kishida says war in Ukraine puts extra emphasis on need for a "free and open Indo-Pacific"

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at the Quad summit in Tokyo on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks at the Quad summit this morning, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida welcomed the other three leaders to Tokyo —  and highlighted the war in Ukraine as a major focus of the meeting.

“A grave incident which has fundamentally shaken the rule of law-based international order we value has happened since we met last September,” Kishida said.

“(The) Russian invasion into Ukraine squarely challenges the principles which are enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We should never, ever allow a similar incident to happen in the Indo-Pacific. Because of the harsh reality unfolding, it is extremely significant for us to get together and show to the international society, the four countries’ solidarity and our firm commitment toward a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

US President Joe Biden also condemned Russia’s invasion in his opening remarks, pledging US support for Ukraine.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi —  who has so far resisted condemning the Russian invasion or imposing sanctions on Moscow —  did not mention the war in Ukraine during his opening comments. Instead, Modi emphasized the importance of “mutual cooperation.”

“Despite the difficult circumstances of Covid-19, we have increased mutual coordination in several areas such as vaccine delivery, climate action, supply chain resilience, disaster response and economic cooperation,” he said. “This will continue to strengthen the image of the Quad as a force for good.”

Australia's new PM Albanese highlights climate change as a key priority for the Quad

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during the Quad leaders' summit meeting at Kantei Palace, on Tuesday.

Newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, leader of the country’s Labor Party, is attending the Quad summit today —  just a day after he was sworn in on Monday following his election win Saturday.

One of Albanese’s first priorities as Prime Minister will be to rebuild relations with foreign leaders that he says his predecessor, Scott Morrison, has neglected in recent years. They include Pacific Island leaders, including the Solomon Islands, whose leader signed a security pact with Beijing — stoking fears that China plans to build its first military base in the Pacific.

“The new Australian government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda — taking action on climate change, and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region,” he said in his opening remarks Tuesday in Tokyo.

On climate change: Albanese emphasized his administration’s commitment to taking action on climate change — one of the main pillars of his campaign, and one of the defining issues of the election.

“We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific,” he said. “Under my government, Australia will set a new target to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, putting us on track for net-zero by 2050.”

"A dark hour in our shared history": Biden kicks off summit by addressing Ukraine

During his opening remarks at the start of the Quad summit, US President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and reiterated the US’ support for Kyiv.  

“We’re navigating a dark hour in our shared history,” Biden said, as he sat facing the leaders of India, Australia, and Japan. 

“The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. And the innocent civilians have been killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced, as well as exiled. And this is more than just a European issue, it’s a global issue,” he said. 

Biden warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “trying to extinguish a culture,” pointing to Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian schools, churches, and museums. 

The US will continue its work with partners to “lead a global response,” he said, adding that Russia’s invasion “only heightens the importance” of the Quad’s goals and shared values. 

Trying to win over India: Biden’s comments come as the White House has said the President intends to speak during the summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi —  who has resisted US pressure to punish Russia — about how to strengthen US-India ties, a suggestion he hopes to wean Delhi off its reliance on Russian arms.

India is the only Quad member that has not condemned the invasion or imposed sanctions on Moscow. The two countries have long shared friendly relations, with India reliant on Russian-made weapons.

The Quad leaders' opening remarks: Ukraine, climate change, security and economic growth

Quad Summit leaders Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, US President Joe Biden, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meet at Kantei Palace in Tokyo, Japan, May 24.

The four quad leaders just sat down to deliver opening remarks, with each speaking in turn.

Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Fumio Kishida of Japan, and Anthony Albanese of Australia also spoke.

They praised the relationships of the Quad, reiterated their goals of establishing a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” and raised several issues expected to come up during the summit —  including the war in Ukraine, action on climate change, and providing economic assistance to the Pacific.

“Today we look ahead to the work we’re yet to do,” said Albanese, who was voted into office on Saturday. “As the Indo-Pacific is reshaped, our Quad partnership is needed now more than ever to meet the challenges and threats of a less certain world — to shape that world for the better, and build a stronger, more cooperative Indo-Pacific region that respects sovereignty.”