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Wary of China, leaders of India, Australia, Japan and the US meet

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By Daniel Bellamy with AP, AFP
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Wary of China, leaders of India, Australia, Japan and the US meet
Copyright  Evan Vucci/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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President Joe Biden has hosted the Quad Group at the White House, which is made up of the leaders of the US, India, Australia and Japan.

While China was not officially on the agenda, a senior US official told reporters the quartet stressed backing for a "free and open" Asia, which is a phrase often standing in for containing China before it dominates the region, including vital international sea lanes.

Concern is growing about Beijing's posturing in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular its repeated flying of warplanes close to Taiwan, which it considers to be a renegade province.

Biden and his fellow leaders -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga -- are all grappling with a rising China that Biden has also accused of coercive economic practices.

"When we met six months ago, we made concrete commitments to advance our shared and positive agenda for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today, I'm proud to say that we're making excellent progress," Biden said.

"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 and in accordance with international law," said Morrison.

The Japanese and Indian governments welcomed a recent announcement that the US, as part of a new alliance with Britain and Australia, would equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Modi was also expected to bring up Afghanistan during the meeting, to raise objections to the Taliban's effort to get recognition at the United Nations. The Indian government also has concerns about the influence it believes Pakistan's intelligence service exerted in how factions of the Taliban divvied up government offices in Kabul.

Suga was expected to discuss China, North Korea, Afghanistan, the COVID-19 response and climate change.

Also on the Quad's agenda was the Covid vaccines drive, regional infrastructure, climate change and securing supply chains for the vital semiconductors used in computer technology.