Japan says PM Suga plans to meet Biden in USA next month

Message to Beijing: Biden to hold first summit with Australia, India, Japan PMs

The US state department said: "Quad members are uniquely positioned to help lead the world out of the deep crises that we've spoken about - that includes Covid-19 - and towards the more positive vision that we all seek".

Ahead of the talks, U.S. officials said the so-called "Quad" nations have agreed to work together to produce up to one billion vaccine doses by 2022 as the world seeks to turn the page on the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

USA officials cast the meeting as a key way of exerting pressure as India and Japan enjoy closer relationships with Myanmar's military - which has historically counted on China as its main source of support. Morrison told reporters the meeting will "see the Quad now move to a whole new level, something Australia has been championing for many years". To do so, it requires us to work with allies and partners.

China has shipped vaccines as far afield as the Dominican Republic and provided doses to global partners such as Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Formed in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and formalised in 2007, the Quad has met regularly at the working and foreign minister level.

China over the past year has engaged in a deadly clash with Indian forces in the Himalayas, stepped up activity near islands administered by Japan and imposed sanctions on Australian products following a series of disputes.

Environmental issues, a priority for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, are also on the agenda. "We are engaging with the Quad to take on those collective shared interests that will be relevant in that setting", Price said. "This is an entity forged and formed because we share common interests... maritime security is, of course, an important one, but our shared interests go well beyond that".

"There are any number of shared interests".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Biden was "taking this to another level". The alliance is seen as integral to efforts to counteract China's growing influence in the region.

Blinken and the USA national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, will then meet later next week in Alaska with top Chinese officials in what the Biden administration has promised to be a blunt airing of United States concerns.

The Quad summit kicks off a flurry of such diplomacy.

In addition to this, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to visit the U.S. in the first half of April and hold what is expected to be the first face-to-face summit with a foreign leader for Biden, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

In Tokyo, top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said that Suga will visit the White House "as early as the first half of April" if conditions allow.

She is reported to be planning regular lunches with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to deepen her familiarity with the nitty-gritty of foreign policy.

After showcasing the alliance, Blinken and United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet top Chinese officials in Alaska late next week in what the Biden administration has promised to be a blunt airing of U.S. concerns.

Beijing still regards the Quad with suspicion, accusing the United States of orchestrating the group to contain its rise.

"What the quad is about, is ensuring an open, independent, sovereign Indo-Pacific that enables all countries and nations within the Indo-Pacific to engage with each other".