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Biden hosts Indo-Pacific leaders as China concerns grow

President Joe Biden is set to host the first in-person meeting of leaders of an Indo-Pacific alliance dubbed "the Quad" on Friday, capping off a difficult week of diplomacy during which he faced criticism from both allies and adversaries.

With President Joe Biden's meeting with the heads of state and government of India, Japan, and Australia at the White House, President Barack Obama will have an opportunity to draw attention to a central goal of his foreign policy: drawing greater attention to the Pacific in the face of what the United States perceives to be China's coercive economic practices and unsettling military maneuvering in the region. Climate change, the COVID-19 response, and cyber security are all expected to be topics of discussion during the four leaders' meeting.

Prior to the summit, the Japanese and Indian governments expressed satisfaction with a recent announcement that the United States, as part of a separate new alliance with Britain and Australia, would provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as part of the alliance.

Australia will be able to conduct longer patrols as a result of this decision, giving it a competitive advantage over the Chinese navy. France, on the other hand, was enraged by the announcement, accusing the Biden administration of stabbing it in the back by scuttling its own $66 billion deal to supply diesel-powered submarines.

Relations between Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have improved since the two leaders spoke Wednesday and agreed to take steps to improve coordination in the Indo-Pacific region.

The alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, according to Michael Green, who served as senior director for Asia at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, will "reset the trajectories of naval power in the Pacific for the next 50 years" and will "stabilize things" from the perspective of those countries "as China massively builds up its naval forces."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian described the alliance as a relic of "outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception" that would exacerbate a regional arms race. The alliance has been strongly opposed by Beijing.

According to Bonny Lin, senior fellow for Asian security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Beijing has also attempted to promote the notion that the formation of the alliance indicates that the United States will favor Australia in the Quadrilateral at the expense of Japan and India.

Beijing has also attempted to portray the Quad as being out of step with other countries in Southeast Asia, and members of the Quad as being ostracized by the international community ""They're pawns for the United States," Lin said.

The White House meeting is taking place at a time when China is attempting to make a show of force in the region.

Following Taiwan's announcement that it would like to join a Pacific trade group, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which China has also applied to join, China dispatched 24 fighter jets to the island.

Biden's meeting with the leaders of the Indo-Pacific region brings to a close a busy week of diplomacy for the president, which included speeches to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and hosting a virtual global summit on the fight against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden — as well as the leaders of other wealthy nations — have come under fire for the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to vaccinations between residents of wealthy and impoverished countries. The opposition from leaders of low- and middle-income countries came at the same time that President Biden announced plans for the United States to double to 1 billion doses its purchase of Pfizer vaccine to distribute to the rest of the world.

Additionally, President Biden is scheduled to meet separately with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday afternoon.

The way forward with the Taliban government in Afghanistan is expected to be discussed by Modi and Biden during their meeting on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the Indian official's agenda. Modi met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday. The individual was not authorized to make a public statement.

Modi is expected to express his displeasure with the Taliban's attempt to gain recognition at the United Nations General Assembly. The Modi government is also concerned about the influence that Pakistan's intelligence service, which it believes was exerted on how Taliban factions divided up government offices in Kabul, is having on the Afghan government.

At a time when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, the group provided support to militants in Kashmir, a long-contested region that has been the site of wars and skirmishes between India and Pakistan for decades. The Haqqani network was responsible for two suicide bombings at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, in 2008 and 2009. Members of the network, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, have been promoted to senior positions in the Taliban administration.

Modi made a brief appearance before reporters before beginning his meeting with Harris, during which he praised the Biden administration for making progress on COVID-19 as well as climate change issues.

In his remarks, he said, "You took over as President of the United States in a very challenging environment and in challenging times, but you have a long list of accomplishments to your credit, whether it's COVID, climate change, or the Quadrilateral," he said. "The United States has taken significant steps forward on all of these issues."

According to a foreign ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, Suga was expected to raise issues such as China, North Korea, Afghanistan, the COVID-19 response, and climate change during his one-on-one meeting with President Joe Biden.

For the first time ever, North Korea claimed last week that it had successfully launched ballistic missiles from a train and that the missiles had hit a target in the sea more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) away.

That test followed the North's announcement earlier this month that it had successfully tested new cruise missiles, which it intends to upgrade to nuclear capability and which are capable of striking targets up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away, putting all of Japan and U.S. military installations in the country within range.

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