WASHINGTON—President Biden will meet virtually on Friday with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India, his first joint conversation with the four-nation group known as the Quad that has sought to counter China’s regional influence.
“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close collaboration with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Ms. Psaki said the leaders would discuss climate change, economic cooperation and the coronavirus pandemic, but made no direct mention of China.
Since taking office, Mr. Biden and his top advisers have been laying the foundation of a strategy to work with foreign allies to confront Beijing. The Quad is a strategic group seen as a bulwark against Chinese expansionism.
During a recent phone meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts in the group committed to working together on the coronavirus pandemic and to countering Chinese territorial and maritime claims.
Established in part to help with disaster relief in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Quad—or Quadrilateral—has increasingly focused on military coordination and exercises, as well as combating the Covid-19 pandemic. Japan and Australia are U.S. treaty allies, and India has increasingly worked with Washington on defense, including after a deadly border skirmish with Chinese forces last year.
India’s foreign ministry said the meeting would focus on regional and global issues of interest and on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The Biden administration has avoided the Trump administration’s harsh rhetoric toward Beijing but maintained the tough stance of the previous administration, including the focus on countering Chinese pressure in the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions.
An interim national-security report released by the White House this month cited China alone as a top global challenge.
“China, in particular, has rapidly become more assertive,” the report said. “It is the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”
The Biden team is putting a bigger emphasis on working with allies—especially in Asia—to counter China’s moves in and around disputed islands and to seek alternatives to Chinese technology.
The Friday meeting comes after the U.S. reached new agreements with South Korea and Japan on how to share the cost of American troops in the countries, an effort to solidify relations in the region.
The new administration has signaled it will compete with China strategically and economically but may also cooperate with Beijing on some issues including climate change. Washington and Beijing are planning to co-chair a G-20 study group focusing on climate-related financial risks.
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