Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has begun high-level talks with his United States, Japan and India counterparts focusing on the security of the Indo-Pacific.
Mr Albanese told Joe Biden, Fumio Kishida and Narendra Modi his government’s priorities align with the Quad’s agenda, including acting on climate change and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific.
“As we gather today, I acknowledge all that the Quad has achieved,” he said in his opening remarks in Tokyo.
“Standing together for a free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific region, and working together to tackle the biggest challenges of our time, including climate change and the security of our region.”
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Mr Albanese, who was sworn in as prime minister on Monday, says he will continue to stand with like-minded allies as Australia puts a renewed focus on Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia.
“Our cooperation is built on the values that we share – a commitment to representative democracy, the rule of law and the right to live in peace,” he said.
“We will stand firm on our values and our beliefs, on what we know will enhance the prosperity and stability of our region and what is firmly in the interests of all those who call the Indo-Pacific home.”
Mr Albanese also sought to differentiate from his predecessor Scott Morrison on climate action.
“We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific,” he said.
“We will bring more energy and resources to securing our region as we enter a new and more complex phase in the Pacific’s strategic environment.”
On top of regional security, the leaders’ meeting will also focus on establishing supply chain principles, including discussions about human rights after the US passed legislation in December banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region.
A similar push in Australia stalled under the Morrison government despite being recommended by a parliamentary foreign affairs committee.
There will also be a focus on telecommunications markets for 5G and 6G to counter Chinese dominance in the field as well as climate change, infrastructure needs and collaboration on disaster relief.
Mr Biden joked about Mr Albanese’s whirlwind elevation to the prime ministership.
“You got sworn in, got on a plane and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK,” he said.
The US president said the partnership was about democracy against autocracy.
“We’re navigating a dark hour in our shared history. The Russian brutal war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
“The fundamental principles of international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty, international law, human rights, must always be defended, regardless where they’re violated in the world.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong held bilateral discussions with her United States and Indian counterparts on the sidelines in Tokyo.
Senator Wong met with Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Monday night after arriving in Tokyo on the same day as being sworn in, before meeting with Antony Blinken and the White House’s top Indo-Pacific security advisor Kurt Campbell on Tuesday morning.
The meetings focused on Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, including through its new security agreement with the Solomon Islands, as well as the challenges proposed by climate change.
“We discussed what was happening in the Pacific, the Solomon Islands and the importance of working together with other partners to secure the region,” she said.
Mr Albanese will also hold individual bilateral talks with the leaders throughout Tuesday.
President Biden met with Prime Minister Kishida on Monday where he unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which includes a dozen initial partners making up 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.
Partners include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.
It comes after Australia condemned Russia alongside the US and Japan in a seven-nation statement on Monday following APEC, where no joint statement was issued.
The official Quad communique is unlikely to expressly condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
India has refused to outright condemn the invasion due to its close military trade with the Kremlin.