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U.S., Australia, India and Japan to address China's dominance, Russian aggression

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Leaders of four nations with a shared interest in containing China met today. They are the U.S., Australia, India and Japan. They are known together as the Quad. And as they met, they also focused on China's strategic partner, Russia. Here's President Biden speaking today in Tokyo.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We're navigating a dark hour in our shared history. The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. And innocent civilians they've killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced, as well as exiled. And this is more than just a European issue. It's a global issue.

INSKEEP: Which is why Biden was discussing it with leaders in Asia. Let's talk this through with NPR's John, which. He is in Shenzhen in southern China. And, of course, China must watch these meetings very closely. Hey there, John.

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I guess we could say the Quad, to some extent, is all about China. Is that fair?

RUWITCH: (Laughter) To some extent, it is. You know, the Quad is - the formal name is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. It was established in 2004 after the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia as a way to get aid there in a coordinated way, formalized three years later, kind of dropped off the map after that. And then President Trump resurrected it. And since then, it's really picked up steam under Biden. The group's not a formal alliance, but it's becoming more prominent. It's met four times since he became president. And, yeah, the big driver is growing concern about China. And it jibes quite well with Biden's foreign policy focus on China as a threat and competitor and his effort to rally friends and allies to the cause.

INSKEEP: And, of course, if you add the allies to the United States, its economic power would be overwhelming compared even with China's. But how did concern about China express itself at this meeting?

RUWITCH: Well, it was a bit indirect. I mean, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was flagged at this meeting by Trump and others as a cautionary tale for Asia, really. You know, as we heard Biden say at the top, it's more than a European issue. It's a global issue. And Japan's prime minister went further. And he said, you know, we cannot let the same thing, like an invasion of Ukraine, happen in the Indo-Pacific. He didn't name names. But, you know, many see parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan, right? Taiwan is a self-governing democracy. But Beijing considers it part of China and has really ramped up rhetoric and military exercises around the island. It wants to bring Taiwan back into the fold peacefully, but hasn't renounced the use of force to do so if it needs to. So there's this thread hanging out there.

INSKEEP: Can you just clean up some remarks for us here or at least explain some remarks? President Biden said, yes, yesterday, when asked if he would get involved militarily in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan. That is a lot less ambiguous than the U.S. normally is. But has the U.S. changed its policy?

RUWITCH: Well, Biden, again, you know, today - he said this yesterday. And again today, he said, no, the policy on Taiwan has not changed, you know, including strategic ambiguity, which is a part of the approach to the way they've dealt with this question of whether or not they would defend Taiwan. As far as Beijing's concerned, the mixed messages are kind of moot. I asked Alexander Huang about this. He's a security expert who teaches at Tamkang University outside of Taipei.

ALEXANDER HUANG: In any future Taiwan scenario, we are assured, from Beijing's eyes, that the United States will get itself involved. So I would bet that in all military drills and military exercises, the U.S. intervention is in their playbook.

RUWITCH: You know, the reality is that Washington has been deepening its ties with partners across the Asia Pacific, like the Quad nations and like Taiwan. And ties with Beijing, at the same time, have just gotten frostier and frostier.

INSKEEP: NPR's John Ruwitch, thanks.

RUWITCH: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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