QUAD Summit pledges 1 billion doses of anti-Covid vaccine for Asia-Pacific

Response of United States, Japan, India and Australia to China's "vaccine diplomacy". Production in India with US technology, Japanese financing and Australian logistics. Beijing "belittles". Summit with the Chinese next week in Alaska: Waashington announces a hard line.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The United States, Japan, India and Australia have pledged to provide Southeast Asian and Pacific nations with one billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2022. The announcement came yesterday during the first meeting between heads of state of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), a forum for discussion between the four governments that China sees as a possible "Asian NATO".

The final document of the virtual summit never makes explicit reference to Beijing, but the points raised - including a common commitment to technology - are a response to Chinese policies in the Indo-Pacific.

The "QUAD Vaccine Partnership" is an alternative to China's "vaccine diplomacy". The Chinese government has said it wants to donate the drug to 53 countries and export it to 27 others, despite its national vaccination campaign so far lagging behind that of the US and Great Britain.

The vaccine of choice for the QUAD initiative should be Johnson & Johnson's single-dose. It will be produced by Indian company Biological Ltd with technological backing from Washington, US and Japanese funding and logistical help from Australia. The four countries have made it clear that distribution will take place in collaboration with the World Health Organization and in coordination with Covax, the world program for providing vaccines to developing nations.

The Chinese state media tried to downplay the importance of the summit, arguing that the four members of the QUAD all have different agendas, especially regarding China. Joe Biden, Yoshihide Suga, Narendra Modi and Scott Morrison, however, said they wanted to work in favour of a "free and open Indo-Pacific, anchored in democratic values".

At the end of their meeting, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stressed that the four leaders discussed Beijing's "coercive" acts against Australia, Chinese "aggressive" manoeuvres in the waters around the Senkaku Islands (administered by Tokyo, but claimed by China) and along the border with India.

On March 18 Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet in Alaska with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, the highest diplomatic authority in Beijing. Washington announced yesterday that in addition to its concerns over the repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and those over Chinese threats to Taiwan, its envoys will address the issue of tensions between Beijing and the other QUAD nations.