The United States and three of its closest Indo-Pacific partners committed to supplying up to a billion coronavirus vaccine doses across Asia by the end of 2022 at a summit on Friday carefully choreographed to counter China's growing influence.
President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan - countries together known as the Quad - pledged at their first summit to work to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime, cyber and economic security, issues vital to the four democracies in the face of challenges from Beijing.
"We're renewing our commitment to ensure that our region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, and free from coercion," Biden told his counterparts, without naming China.
His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called the virtual summit a big day for U.S. diplomacy, as Washington sought to revitalize its alliances and approach Beijing from a position of strength ahead of a high-level U.S.-China meeting next week.
"The four leaders did discuss the challenge posed by China, and they made clear that none of them have any illusions about China," Sullivan told reporters, adding that they all believed democracy could outcompete "autocracy."
Freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas, recent cyberattacks and semi-conductor supply-chain security, were also discussed, along with the North Korean nuclear issue and the coup and "violent repression" in Myanmar, he said.
In a joint statement, Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, climate and security.
"We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion," they added.
The leaders agreed to set up an experts' group to help distribute vaccines, as well as working groups on climate change, technology standards, and joint development of emerging technologies. An in-person summit would be held later this year, they said.
'NEW LEVEL OF COOPERATION'
Suga told reporters he had expressed strong opposition to China's attempts to change the status quo in the region, and Modi told the session the Quad had "come of age" and would "now remain an important pillar of stability in the region."