Blinken to visit Australia next week for Quad group meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Australia next week for a Quad group ministerial meeting also involving his counterparts from India and Japan to discuss maritime security and cooperation against Covid, the State Department said Friday.
President Joe Biden's top diplomat also heads to Fiji, in the first visit by a U.S secretary of state to the island nation since 1985, to discuss what the department called "w.ays to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific," using the administration's term for the Asia-Pacific region.
After Fiji, Blinken heads to Honolulu, Hawaii on February 12 to host a trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea to "deepen our cooperation in addressing threats from the DPRK's (North Korea's) nuclear and missile programs" and other current global "challenges."
China was not mentioned in the statement announcing Blinken's trip, but the Quad grouping is focused on countering a rising Beijing.
And while the phrase "free and open" was mentioned in the context of the Fiji visit, the wording has become code for expressing the big regional powers' worry about swelling Chinese economic, diplomatic and military presence -- including threats to vital international sea lanes.
Biden held an in-person summit at the White House last September with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan as they highlighted the Quad's role in safeguarding a stable, democratic Asia-Pacific.
Beginning Wednesday, Blinken will meet his counterparts to discuss multiple bilateral and global priorities.
"With our Quad partners, we are delivering results for our populations and the region, including by advancing cooperation on COVID-19 vaccination delivery, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, maritime security, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, countering disinformation, climate change, and critical and emerging technologies," according to the State Department.

© 2022 AFP
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