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International relations

Quad leaders to agree on vaccine aid to counter China influence

Discussion will also touch on environment, Xinjiang and Myanmar

Left to right, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, want to counter China. (Source photos by AP)

TOKYO -- The leaders of the "Quad" countries -- the U.S., Japan, India and Australia -- will meet online Friday for their first summit, signaling their commitment to cooperate in providing COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries.

Although the foreign ministers of the four countries have met previously, the upcoming talks will be at the highest level. The Indian government officially announced the meeting on Tuesday, followed by U.S. and the others. Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the summit.

The grouping of democracies will lay out a framework to provide Indian-made vaccines to Asian and African countries. The dialogue will also consider a plan to offer financial support from Japan, U.S. and Australia for the purchase of vaccines by developing countries.

The move comes as the Quad seeks to form a united front to counter China's "vaccine diplomacy." Japan has already announced that it will support the development of cold chains, such as refrigerators, freezers and transport, for the perishable vaccines.

Environmental issues, a priority for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, are also on the agenda. The meeting will also take up supply chains for important industrial inputs such as semiconductors and rare earths.

Tokyo is expected to raise concerns over China Coast Guard vessels sailing near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. China's Maritime Police Law, which classifies its coast guard as a paramilitary organization, came into effect in February, highlighting rising tensions in the East China Sea.

Human rights in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and the recent coup in Myanmar are also likely to be discussed.

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