The world is “navigating a dark hour in our shared history” with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden told key Asian allies.
The war has now become a “global issue” underscoring the importance of defending international order, he said.
Japanese PM Fumio Kishida echoed his comments, saying that a similar invasion should not happen in Asia.
Mr Biden was meeting the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in Tokyo in his first visit to Asia as president.
The four countries known collectively as the Quad discussed security and economic concerns including China’s growing influence in the region – and differences over the Russian invasion.
Mr Biden’s comments came a day after he warned China that it was “flirting with danger” over Taiwan, and vowed to protect Taiwan militarily if China attacked, appearing to contradict a long-standing US policy on the issue.
It was later reported that Russian and Chinese warplanes had approached Japanese airspace as part of a joint military patrol, prompting Tokyo to announce it had scrambled jets in response.
Russian officials said the flight over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea was part of an annual military exercise.
Mr Kishida told a news conference that planning the exercise to coincide with today’s summit was “provocative”.
In his opening remarks at Tuesday’s summit, Mr Biden said their meeting was about “democracies versus autocracies, and we have to make sure that we deliver”.
The Ukraine war, he said, “is going to affect all parts of the world” as Russia’s blockade of Ukraine grain exports aggravates a global food crisis.
Mr Biden promised the US would work with allies to lead the global response, reiterating their commitment to defend international order and sovereignty “regardless of where they were violated in the world” and remaining a “strong and enduring partner” in the Indo-Pacific region.
After their meeting, Mr Kishida told reporters that all four countries “including India” agreed on the importance of the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity; and that “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force will never be tolerated”.
India is the only Quad member that has refused to directly criticise Russia for the invasion, and, in what appeared to be a concession to Delhi, there was no mention of Russia in the joint statement issued at the end of the talks .
There was also no direct reference to China or its activities, but the Quad nations announced a new maritime monitoring initiative that is expected to step up surveillance of Chinese activity in the region, along with a plan to spend at least $50bn (£40bn) on infrastructure projects and investment over the next five years.
Formally referred to as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad began as a loose grouping of countries following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that banded together to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance. The group fell dormant before it was resuscitated in 2017.
Since then however, the top leaders have gathered four times in less than two years, meeting once in Washington last September and twice virtually.
Analysts say the steady decline in each Quad nation’s bilateral ties with China in the past few years appears to have given the grouping more impetus.
There has been mounting discomfort with China’s growing assertiveness in the region, with ongoing maritime disputes between China and several countries, and a land boundary conflict with India.
Beijing’s heavy investment in strengthening its navy and its recent security pact with the Solomon Islands has stoked fears in Australia, while Japan has become increasingly wary of what it calls routine “incursions” from the Chinese navy in its waters.
On Monday, Mr Biden unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a US-led trade pact aiming to promote regional growth that includes 13 countries, mostly in Asia.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said it would provide countries “an alternative to China’s approach”. Officials said it would set standards in the areas of trade, supply chains, clean energy and infrastructure, and tax and anti-corruption.
The IPEF has been widely seen as a way for the US to re-engage with the Indo-Pacific after former US President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership – a regional trade pact – in 2017.
- Who is in the Quad? The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue brings together the US, Japan, Australia and India. It began as a loose grouping to provide aid following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and was relaunched in 2017.
- What are its aims? With its focus on the Indo-Pacific, the Quad says it backs the free and open, rules-based global order – it’s unstated goal is containing an increasingly assertive China in its backyard. Member nations’ ties with China have deteriorated in recent years.
- What’s at stake? The US must persuade its allies – united by concern at China’s rise but differing on other issues – that it’s committed to a region seen as key to global security and prosperity. China says the region should beware what it calls the “Asian Nato”.
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