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Biden to host PMs of Aust, India and Japan

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his counterparts from India and Japan will meet with US President Joe Biden this month to discuss enhancing Indo-Pacific relations.

This will be the first in-person summit of leaders of the “Quad” countries, which have been seeking to enhance cooperation to push back against China’s growing assertiveness.

The summit will be held at the White House on September 24, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Morrison will also attend the United National General Assembly in New York, alongside fellow prime ministers Narendra Modi of India and Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

A virtual meeting of the Quad leaders was held in March and they pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccines and climate and to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of challenges from Beijing.

“Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Psaki said.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said in July the long-planned in-person meeting should bring “decisive” commitments on vaccine diplomacy and infrastructure.

Biden, who is pushing big infrastructure spending at home, said in March he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, which involves projects from East Asia to Europe.

Psaki said the Quad Leaders would “be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

A senior US official said infrastructure would be among a range of topics discussed at the in-person summit.

The Quad meeting will come after Biden’s image has taken a battering over the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

US officials have said ending America’s longest war will allow the administration to divert resources and attention to tackling China-related issues.

Senator Bill Hagerty, a Republican, and former US ambassador to Japan, welcomed the plan to host the Quad leaders.

“Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal debacle made India’s neighbourhood more dangerous & raises legitimate questions for Japan and Australia as well, so it’s good we will be hosting Quad partners soon,” he said on Twitter.

“We must repair & renew our alliances, and this one is key.”

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