TOKYO – President Joe Biden opened his last day in Asia on Tuesday, holding talks with three leaders of the Indo-Pacific region, including Australia’s new prime minister on his first full-time job and Narendra Modi of India, with whom disagreements remain over how to react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden, Modi and Japanese Fumio Kishida kicked off the Quad summit, welcoming Australian Anthony Albanese to the club and expressing awe at his determination to join an informal security coalition by rushing to Tokyo immediately after being sworn in on Monday.
“I don’t know how you do it,” said Biden Albanese. The US president joked that it would be good if the new prime minister accidentally fell asleep during the meeting.
Becoming serious, Biden said the leaders were “moving through the dark hour of our common history” because of Russia’s war with Ukraine. He added that it was “more than just a European issue, it is a global problem”.
Kishida also took note of Russia’s aggression and added: “We cannot allow the same thing to happen in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Modi, whose reaction to the situation with Ukraine disappointed Washington, did not touch on the issue in his public statements when the summit began.
Biden will meet separately with Albanese and Modi after a four-party gathering of a security group known as the Quad. The partnership has become increasingly important as Biden began to adjust U.S. foreign policy to focus more on the region and oppose China’s rise as an economic power and security force. On Monday, he held bilateral talks with the host of the summit, Kishida.
Albanese told his fellow Quad leaders that he is committed to the group’s mission to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
“We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change,” Albanese said.
Biden’s inconspicuous statement Monday that the United States will intervene in hostilities if China invades Taiwan overshadows Taiwan’s talks, saying the burden of defending Taiwan was “even stronger” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The White House insists Biden’s unusually harsh comments about Taiwan have not led to a shift in U.S. policy toward the self-governing island, which China considers its own.
Biden asked Modi not to speed up the purchase of Russian oil, as the United States and other allies are trying to reduce Moscow’s energy resources. The Indian prime minister has made no public commitment to cut off Russian oil, and Biden has publicly called India “somewhat shaky” in his response to the invasion.
Unlike other Quad countries and almost all other US allies, India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its largest supplier of military equipment. Faced with Western pressure, India condemned the deaths of civilians in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. However, it has also exacerbated the effects of the war, which has caused global food shortages by banning wheat exports at a time when famine risks are rising in some parts of the world.
Together with Modi, who sat next to him, Biden said that the whole world has a common responsibility to help the Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression.
“Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, killing innocent civilians in the streets and displacing millions of refugees and exiles,” Biden said. “And it’s more than just a European issue, it’s a global problem.”
The US president has been proving Modi for weeks.
Biden and Modi talked about the Russian invasion during a virtual meeting of four-party leaders in March, and last month they had a brief video chat when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Minister Lloyd Austin met with their Indian counterparts in Washington.
“So this is not going to be a new conversation,” said Jake Sullivan, White House National Security Adviser. “This will be a continuation of the conversation they have already had about how we see the picture in Ukraine and the consequences of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine for a wider range of problems in the world.”
While Biden and Modi can avoid a public confrontation over how to respond to Russia’s aggression, the issue remains paramount as the United States and its allies seek to increase pressure on Putin, said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Asia Center. Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“It seems pretty obvious that the Biden administration is not looking for problems with India, and that most of these difficult talks will be private,” said Green, who was a senior aide to the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.
Quad leaders are expected to announce some modest initiatives, including new efforts to provide children’s vaccines against COVID-19 to those most in need, and a program to help nations improve the safety and environmental awareness of their territorial waters, the senior administration said. an official who viewed upcoming ads on condition of anonymity.
Last year, Quad promised to donate 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine worldwide. So far, the group has provided about 257 million doses, the official said.
Biden will meet with Albanese later on Tuesday. They spoke on the phone after the leader of the center-left Labor Party defeated Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ending nine years of conservative rule in Australia.
Associated Press writers Zick Miller of Washington, Marie Yamaguchi of Tokyo and Ashok Sharma of New Delhi contributed to the report.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.