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Biden says Quad partnership ‘elevated’, US will defend allies

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that the Quad alliance of India, the US, Japan and Australia has been “elevated”, as he declared that Washington will stand up for its allies and friends.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly Summit, Biden said, “We elevated the Quad partnership among Australia, India, Japan and the United States to take on challenges ranging from health security to climate to emerging technologies, engaging with regional institutions.”

Biden’s statement came ahead of his first Quad summit on Friday with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia.

“Make no mistake, the United States will continue to defend itself, its allies and its interests against attacks, including terrorist threats,” he declared.

He also made a resolute commitment to fight terrorism.

“We know the bitter string of terrorism, which is real,” Biden said, as he referred to the terrorist attack in Afghanistan last month that killed “13 American heroes and almost 200 innocent Afghan civilians”.

“Those who commit acts of terrorism will continue to find a determined enemy in the United States,” he said.

Biden also offered US cooperation to partners on emerging technologies and scientific breakthroughs.

“As new technologies continue to evolve, we’ll work together with our democratic partners to ensure that new advances in areas of biotechnology, quantum computing, 5G (telecommunications), artificial intelligence and more are used to lift people up to solve their problems,” he said.

In a message to China without taking its name, Biden said the US “will stand up for our allies and our friends, and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate the weaker ones and bring changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technical exploitation or misinformation”.

At the same time, he said, “We are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs.”

“The United States is ready to work with any nation that steps up to pursue peaceful resolution of shared challenges even if we have intense disagreement in other areas, because we’ll all suffer the consequences of our failure to come together,” he said.

Biden, who has made fighting climate change a pillar of his domestic and foreign policies, echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ warning about the imminent dangers of global warming, which he called “Code Red”.

He said that every nation has to bring “their highest possible ambitions” for fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the table at the UN climate change conference in November in Glasgow”.

The US has set an ambitious new goal under the Paris Agreement on climate change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent to 52 per cent below the 2005 levels by 2030 and a clean energy economy with net zero emissions by 2050, he said.

Biden came to the UN facing a credibility gap with the US allies and partners after the disastrous troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the dispute with France over the plan to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia undercutting a major defence deal between Paris and Canberra.

France has withdrawn its envoy from Washington and French President Emmanuel Macron has cancelled his US speech that was scheduled for Tuesday.

In a bid to reassure US’ European allies, Biden said, “I prioritise rebuilding our alliance, revitalising our partnership and recognising that they are central and essential to America’s enduring security and prosperity.”

“We have reaffirmed our sacred NATO alliance,” he said, adding, “We’re working with our allies for the new strategic concept that will help our alliance better take on the evolving threats of today and tomorrow.”

He did not dwell on the Afghanistan fiasco beyond saying that “we have ended 20 years of conflict” there “and as we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy, of using the power of our development aid, invest in new ways of lifting people up around the world”.

Biden also said that the US is committed to provide the world with Covid-19 vaccines, adding that Washington would make more commitments in the fight against the pandemic at the summit on Wednesday.