Blinken to meet Asia 'Quad' after China friction
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet next week with his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia, on the heels of a flare-up in tensions with China, an official said Friday.
Blinken will hold the talks with the so-called Quad on March 3 on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in New Delhi, said Donald Lu, the top State Department official on South Asia.
The four will hold an hour-long public discussion as part of the Raisina Dialogue, a major Indian conference on geopolitics, he said.
The Quad was a concept developed by late Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe as he sought unity among the four democracies that have each seen friction with a rising China, which has repeatedly condemned the grouping as a move to encircle it.
The latest meeting comes weeks after Blinken scrapped a trip to Beijing after an alleged Chinese spy balloon flew over the United States.
He later held a tense meeting with China's foreign policy supremo Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference.
Lu said that the Quad would emphasize its recent initiatives including disaster relief and vaccine aid, downplaying the subtext of China.
"The Quad is not a military alliance; the Quad is not in fact an organization that is against any single country or group of countries," Lu said.
"The Quad stands for trying to promote activities and values that support the Indo-Pacific -- a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said, using the US catchphrase for a region not dominated by Beijing.
India has long had tensions with China, including a major border skirmish in 2020, and has a budding alliance with the United States.
But New Delhi has bucked Washington by preserving its Cold War relationship with Russia despite the year-old invasion of Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend the meeting in New Delhi. Blinken has refused to see him in person since the war, saying Russia is not serious about peace, although the two have spoken by telephone.
Blinken will head to New Delhi after stops in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which have both been uneasy but guarded in public statements over Russia's attack of Ukraine.
He will also meet in Kazakhstan's capital Astana with his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the other Central Asian former Soviet republics.