President Biden will hold a virtual summit with the leaders of India, Japan, and Australia on Friday. It will be the first time talks are held between the heads of state of the four-member group known as the Quad.
The Quad is seen as a potential foundation for an anti-China alliance in Asia. First formed in 2007, the Quad was quickly disbanded over fears from Australia and India that it would send the wrong message to Beijing. But the dialogue was revived in 2017, and recent years have seen an increase in military cooperation between the Quad nations.
In 2020, Australia joined the other Quad countries in the Indian-led Malabar naval exercises, marking the first time that the four countries held military drills together since 2007. In previous years, India had been hesitant to let Canberra join the drills, fearing it would stoke tensions with Beijing.
Tensions have been high between India and China over a border dispute in the western Himalayas that turned deadly last June. Since then, Washington has stepped up military cooperation with New Delhi. Last October, the US signed a new military pact with India that allows the US to share more satellite data, which is being used to keep an eye on Chinese troops near the contested border.
Tensions are also high between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyus as they are known in China, are Japanese-controlled uninhabited islands that are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Chinese coast guard vessels have recently sailed near the Senkakus, drawing protest from Japan and warnings from the US. The Biden administration has reassured Japan that the Senkakus are covered under the US-Japan defense treaty, meaning Washington is willing to go to war over the uninhabited islands.
The Biden administration has singled out China as its top foreign policy priority. Boosting cooperation with the Quad will likely be a central part of President Biden’s strategy to confront China. “That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the Quad summit.