WASHINGTON (CN) — Australia, Japan, India and the United States reached an agreement Friday morning during their first-ever “Quad Summit” to provide a billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to the Indo-Pacific region by 2022.
In a White House press briefing Friday, national security advisor Jake Sullivan said that the four countries have put together “complex financing vehicles” to dramatically increase vaccine production in the region, which is lagging far behind in vaccinations.
“Make no mistake, today is a big day for American diplomacy,” Sullivan said. “This summit is a big deal for the president and the country.”
The vaccines will be produced in India, funded by the U.S. and Japan, and distributed by Australia. A White House Fact Sheet says the countries will work closely with the World Health Organization and its vaccine-distribution program, dubbed Covax, which received a $4 billion commitment from the United States last month.
The four like-minded nations, known as the “Quad,” have cooperated on and off since the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, but had never held a summit until Friday, during which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden gathered virtually to talk about regional challenges.
Sullivan said their 90-minute meeting included discussions of climate change, nuclear issues, the coup in Burma, Covid-19 and strategies to counterbalance China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Each of the leaders independently in the course of the meeting referred to this event as historic, because it cemented a group of strong democracies that will work together going forward to secure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sullivan said.
In a joint statement, the four countries committed to establishing three working groups: on vaccines, emerging tech and climate. The leaders also committed to denuclearizing North Korea and restoring democracy to Myanmar.
“We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion,” the leaders said.
The summit comes amid a slew of U.S. attempts at diplomacy in Asia. Next week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Japan and South Korea, and Austin will then travel to India. Afterward, Blinken and Sullivan will meet with high-level Chinese officials in Alaska.
The Quad leaders plan to meet in again, this time in person, before the end of the year.