Washington: US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have pledged to work with India and Australia to strengthen the Quad to build a free, open, accessible, diverse and thriving Indo-Pacific, as the two leaders discussed the impact of China's actions on peace and prosperity in the region.
The two leaders met at the White House on Friday in Biden's first face-to-face talks with a foreign leader as president.
"Together, we will continue to work with allies and partners, including with Australia and India through the Quad, which has never been stronger, to build the free, open, accessible, diverse, and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek," said the two leaders in a joint statement issued after their maiden in-person meeting.
I was honored to welcome Prime Minister Suga to the White House today as we usher in a new era of friendship between the U.S. and Japan. Both Pacific nations, we are also united by our shared commitment to the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights. pic.twitter.com/QJgbjNnceE
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 17, 2021
Quad is the grouping of India, the US, Japan and Australia.
"We support ASEAN's unity and centrality in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We also concurred that trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea is essential to our shared security and prosperity.
Announcing the launch of the "US-Japan global partnership for a new era", the joint statement said the United States and Japan renew an alliance that has become a cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.
"An ocean separates our countries, but commitments to universal values and common principles, including freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, international law, multilateralism, and a free and fair economic order, unite us," they said.
"Together we pledge to demonstrate that free and democratic nations, working together, are able to address the global threats from COVID-19 and climate change while resisting challenges to the free and open rules-based international order. Through this new era of friendship between the United States and Japan, each of our democracies will grow stronger still," it said.
The US-Japan alliance, the statement said is unwavering, and they are more prepared than ever to address regional challenges.
Today, President Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Suga for his first foreign leader visit. The two leaders renewed an alliance that has become a cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and the world — and recommitted to addressing our shared challenges. pic.twitter.com/zBeXJ38J7n
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 17, 2021
"Our alliance advances a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific based on our commitment to universal values and common principles, and the promotion of inclusive economic prosperity," it said.
"We respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity and are committed to peacefully resolving disputes and to opposing coercion. We promote shared norms in the maritime domain, including freedom of navigation and overflight, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," the statement said.
Biden and Suga exchanged views on the impact of China's actions on peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world and shared their concerns over Chinese activities that are inconsistent with the international rules-based order, including the use of economic and other forms of coercion.
Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.
"We will continue to work with each other based on universal values and common principles. We also recognise the importance of deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region. We oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea," the joint statement said.
They reiterated their objections to China's unlawful maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their strong shared interest in a free and open South China Sea governed by international law, in which freedom of navigation and overflight are guaranteed, consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the statement said.
"We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues. We share serious concerns regarding the human rights situations in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region," the statement said.
"The United States and Japan recognised the importance of candid conversations with China, reiterated their intention to share concerns directly, and acknowledged the need to work with China on areas of common interest," it said.
Observing that COVID-19 has shown them countries and the world that they are not prepared for a biological catastrophe, the joint statement said that the United States and Japan will also strengthen cooperation to advance health security, respond to future public health crises, and build global health.
"At the first-ever leaders' summit of the Quad on March 12, 2021, we established the Quad Vaccine Experts Group designed to expand safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, procurement, and delivery for the Indo-Pacific region to supplement multilateral efforts," the statement said.
The two leaders also condemned the violence committed by the Myanmar military and police against civilians.
"We firmly condemn violence committed by the Myanmar military and police against civilians, and commit to continue taking action to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy," they said.