President Joe Biden hosts a Quad Leaders Summit with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Japan Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide (C), Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in the East Room at the White House on Friday. Pool Photo by Sarahbeth Maney/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 24 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and three other world leaders met Friday at the White House for the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders Summit -- addressing several of the world's most pressing issues including climate change, COVID-19 and security.
Biden hosted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the summit. The leaders said they wanted to make the summit an annual occurrence.
"Today, when the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are meeting once again as Quad and working in the interest of humanity," Modi said during opening remarks.
"I'm confident that our cooperation, under Quad, will ensure prosperity and peace in the Indo-Pacific and in the world."
Though the leaders didn't explicitly mention China or Beijing in their opening remarks before reports, the issue of Indo-Pacific security and China's influence throughout the region was expected to figure heavily during off-camera discussions, according to the White House.
Speaking after the meeting, Suga said the summit "was useful in reaffirming our commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific."
"We stand here together in the Indo-Pacific region, a region that we wish to be always free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are settled peacefully in accordance with international law," Morrison added.
Friday's is the first in-person meeting between Biden and the other three. Suga visited the White House in April and was the first foreign leader to meet with Biden since he took office in January.
Biden said the Quad meeting was reflective of the issues he addressed during the U.N. General Assembly earlier in the week, including COVID-19, climate change and emerging technologies.
"Our vaccine initiative is on track to produce an additional 1 billion doses of vaccine in India to boost global supply," he said. "We're taking action on climate change with new partnership toward a zero emissions shipping."
He said the leaders were also planning a "Quad fellowship" for students from each of their respective countries to pursue advanced degrees in STEM.
"It represents an investment in the leaders, innovators and pioneers of tomorrow," Biden said.
When the group met virtually in March, they said they wanted a "free and open Indo-Pacific," something they believe is threatened by the growing influence of China.
Modi arrived in the United States earlier this week and met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday.
Biden was expected to meet separately with Modi and Suga before leaving for Camp David for the weekend.