“We believe that the Quad will be a key and critical format and forum for discussion and joint purpose as we head into a challenging period,” the official said, speaking to reporters on background Thursday evening.
“I do want to underscore that The Quad is an unofficial gathering,” the official cautioned. “Although we have a number of working groups and we are deepening cooperation on a very daily basis, it’s also the case that it is not a regional security organization.”
“They really have nothing to do with one another, even though there is some overlap with Australia, obviously,” the official said, “The Quad is a discussion and engagement effort around a number of practical matters.”
Asked about some countries in the region that may think the Quad initiative is “too aggressive against China,” the official pushed back, saying the leaders “are united in a strong belief that the Quad is meant to be complimentary to existing institutions.”
“I think you will hear tomorrow the leaders each talking about the importance to remain open,” the official said Thursday, before reiterating that The Quad is not a military alliance. “It’s an informal grouping of democratic states that are all committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. I think over time … concerns have been dispelled. And I believe at a general level this initiative is welcome across the region.”
Still, conversations are expected to be “wide-ranging,” and a “number of issues” will likely come up. Biden, the official said, “believes that too often … these kinds of discussions are scripted,” and hoped this summit would be different.
“He really wants to be able to sit down and have a deeper conversation with all leaders in an environment where they can really share perspectives on what’s important to each of them as they go forward,” the official said. The official didn’t want to say exactly how long they expected the summit to last but did say they expect it to take a “good part of the afternoon.”
Announcements from the leaders will include a “5G deployment and diversification effort,” a fellowship program that will bring students from all four countries to top STEM colleges in the US, steps to help monitor and combat climate change — including a “green shipping network” — and “steps to bolster critical infrastructure against cyber threats, something that has plagued all four countries.”
Biden will also hold bilateral meetings with Modi and Suga after meeting with Morrison at the UN General Assembly earlier in the week.
“I think the President views this meeting is having a couple of purposes,” the official continued. “One is, obviously, to have a discussion also about the Covid situation in Japan and the way forward, but, as importantly, the President is … a deeply human sentimental person, and I think it’s important to him to say to Prime Minister Suga directly how important that engagement with him has been.”
“Frankly,” the official said, “the fact that the first lady is coming back to meet with the Prime Minister I think speaks volumes.”