WASHINGTON—President Biden and leaders of Japan, India and Australia agreed in a virtual meeting Friday to collaborate on ways to sharply ramp up global coronavirus vaccine production as part of a broader effort to work together to confront China.
Mr. Biden met with leaders of the so-called Quad group in a virtual meeting Friday, his first such summit as president, to discuss producing more vaccines for people in the Indo-Pacific region.
The group also agreed to cooperate on climate change, counterterrorism and protection of technology, and to reinforce common values and international law in addressing issues ranging from security in the South China Sea to cyberspace.
The four countries constitute the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an alliance for mutual concerns about China, which was a subtext of Friday’s meeting but wasn’t the dominant focus of the discussion, national security adviser
said after the virtual summit.
“The four leaders did discuss the challenge posed by China, and they made clear that none of them have any illusions about China, but today was not fundamentally about China,” he told reporters.
The meeting featured Mr. Biden and Vice President
speaking virtually with Prime Minister
of India, Prime Minister
of Australia and Japanese Prime Minister
Mr. Biden said the Quad is committed to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region, hinting at security concerns posed by China, though without mentioning the country by name.
“The United States is committed to working with you, our partners, and all our allies in the region, to achieve stability,” he said. The group, he said, is “dedicated to the practical solutions and concrete results” to achieve that end.
The four leaders found common ground in pledging to produce one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022, according to Mr. Sullivan, to defeat the pandemic around the world.
Mr. Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit Mr. Biden at the White House.
The effort comes amid acute vaccine shortages in Southeast Asia, prompting concern among health officials over the spread of Covid-19 and its variants. The vaccine shortages have prompted U.S. foreign-policy concerns, in that Chinese offers to provide countries with vaccine supplies may elevate Beijing’s influence with countries in the region.
The Quad partners are working toward expanding India’s vaccine-production facilities, with the United States Development Finance Corporation and the Japan International Cooperation Agency participating in financing arrangements and logistical details. The Japan Bank of International Cooperation also may play a role, according to plans distributed by the White House on Friday.
India has long been the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, providing more than half the doses delivered globally. The world’s largest manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, used to make more than 1.5 billion doses of vaccine a year before the pandemic. Indian companies have developed a specialization in delivering large quantities of affordable vaccines, often at only a few dollars a shot.
Since Covid-19 hit, Serum Institute of India was one of the first companies able to mass produce the vaccine developed by
PLC and Oxford University. With a production capacity of more than 50 million doses a month, it is able to supply all the vaccine India’s local vaccine-delivery infrastructure needs at this point and still have lots left to export.
In his first prime-time address to the nation, President Biden called on states to expand Covid-19 vaccine access and make all adults in the U.S. eligible by May 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP
India has started its own vaccine diplomacy initiative, exporting close to 60 million doses—around eight million of those at no cost—mostly to poor countries in Asia and Africa. While it originally got the contract to manufacture the vaccine from AstraZeneca to target just middle- and lower-income countries, richer countries have also turned to it for supplies, including U.S. neighbors Canada and Mexico.
White House officials cast Friday’s meeting as the first in a series of events to underscore the importance of the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary of State
and Defense Secretary
will travel separately over the coming week to Japan and South Korea, the first foreign trips for each.
Next week, Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan also will meet with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska, but U.S. officials said the meeting isn’t expected to grapple with details of trade matters, sanctions disputes or export controls, instead focusing on prospects for future talks.
“This is our effort to communicate clearly to the Chinese government how the United States intends to proceed at a strategic level, what we believe our fundamental interests and values are, and what our concerns with their activities are—whether it’s on Hong Kong, Xinjiang or in the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Sullivan said.
He added that other issues raised within the Quad meeting Friday, including charges of Chinese coercion toward Australia, harassment around the Senkaku Islands and Indian-Chinese conflict along their shared border, also would be topics.
The White House and the Japanese government also announced that Mr. Suga will visit Mr. Biden at the White House next month, becoming the first foreign leader to do so. Mr. Suga was elected Japan’s prime minister in September, succeeding
who resigned because of poor health.
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