By Leigh Hartman

The United States and its Indo-Pacific partners are increasing cooperation to ensure a safe, secure and prosperous future for the region.

During a February 7–13 trip to Australia, Fiji and Hawaii, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Indo-Pacific partners at the Fourth Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and with officials from the Pacific Islands, South Korea and Japan.

He affirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting democracy in the Indo-Pacific and addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis and other challenges.

“Every defining issue of the 21st century runs through” the Indo-Pacific, Blinken said February 12 in Fiji. “Our strategy is built on collaboration.”

Blinken’s trip coincided with the release of the new U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy for strengthening U.S. partnerships in the region.

Australia and the Quad

At the fourth Quad ministerial on February 11 in Melbourne, Australia, Blinken and the foreign ministers of Australia, India and Japan focused on priorities that included promoting maritime peace and security, which is vital for increasing Indo-Pacific prosperity.

The Quad is tackling other 21st-century challenges by:

  • Pledging to donate 1.3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally.
  • Supporting the production of up to 1 billion additional vaccine doses in India for distribution in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
  • Promoting clean energy development and deployment through cooperation on cleaner shipping fuels and by establishing responsible and resilient clean-energy supply chains, and enhancing resilience to climate disasters.
  • Providing humanitarian assistance after natural disasters, such as the recent volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga.
  • Upholding the rules-based international order by fighting terrorism, countering disinformation and strengthening cybersecurity.
(State Dept./M. Gregory)

(State Dept./M. Gregory)

The Quad is committed “to practical cooperation to support regional recovery in the face of COVID-19, and also regional security,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told reporters February 11. “It’s about what four great democracies can bring to support the priorities of Indo-Pacific partners.”

Fiji and the Pacific Islands

Blinken met February 12 with Fiji’s Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and with other Pacific Island leaders to discuss shared priorities and challenges.

During the visit, the leaders focused on climate change, economic investment, regional security and ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. support includes its donation of more than 700,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Pacific Island nations, bilaterally and in partnership with the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, free of charge, with no political strings attached. COVAX is the international partnership dedicated to equitably distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

Blinken also announced that the United States intends to open an embassy in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, “to deepen our cooperation with Pacific Island partners.”

Fiji’s Sayed-Khaiyum called his meeting with Blinken “historic and comprehensive,” saying that the meeting and another with other regional leaders will lead to greater cooperation. “We believe that both mark the start of more direct partnership between Fiji and the USA.”

Japan and South Korea

During a February 12 meeting in Hawaii, Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong committed to expanding cooperation on economic and security priorities.

The officials affirmed their nations’ shared respect for the rules-based international order and condemned North Korea’s recent missile launches.

In a joint statement, the secretary and ministers expressed their desire for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, shared unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and reiterated respect for international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“The U.S. alliances with the ROK and Japan span decades, and our enduring friendship and shared values guide us in our efforts to achieve a prosperous and secure future,” the statement said.

Banner image: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, met with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, right, and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong in Honolulu February 12. (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)