The fourth meeting of the "Quad" alliance between the foreign ministers of the United States, Australia, Japan and India kicked off Friday in Melbourne, Australia. The issue of confrontation with China is high on the agenda.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the talks by stressing the importance of this group in building cooperation among like-minded democracies, noting his country's difficult relations with Beijing.

"We live in a very fragile, fragmented and conflict-ridden world," Morrison told invited ministers. "We will stand up to anyone who seeks to pressure us."

Without mentioning China by name, Morrison expressed his "great relief" that his three partners understood "the constraint and pressure on Australia".

For his part, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Russia is massing more soldiers on its border with Ukraine, warning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is possible even during the ongoing Winter Olympics in China.

As Blinken said after the meeting, "we still see worrying signs of a Russian escalation," stressing that the United States prefers to resolve differences diplomatically.

Prior to the start of the talks, Blinken told The Australian that although Washington is currently focused on the Russian threat to Ukraine, the long-term challenge remains the expansion of China's influence.

"There is no doubt that China's ambition with time is to become the leading military, economic, diplomatic and political power, not only in the region but throughout the world," he added.

He also said, "Our interests are global and you know very well that our focus is on the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions."

In the same context, Daniel Krettenbrink, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that part of the discussions during the meeting related to the challenges posed by China.

Blinken: Russia's invasion of Ukraine is possible at any time (Reuters)

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"Together we form a vibrant network of liberal democracies that are committed to cooperating concretely, and to ensuring that all countries in the Indo-Pacific, large and small, are able to make their own strategic decisions free of coercion," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said ahead of the summit.

She added that relations with North Korea and China would be part of the discussions.

In turn, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi made it clear last month to his country's parliament that the quadripartite alliance made it possible to establish a "free and open order based on the rule of law" in the Asia-Pacific region.

Following a 2020 joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal, today's meeting aims to deepen cooperation in areas such as the delivery of coronavirus vaccines, maritime security issues, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, countering disinformation, and climate change, according to a previous US State Department statement.

The four countries took advantage of this framework to pledge to distribute 1.3 billion vaccines against the Corona epidemic, 500 million of which have been delivered so far, according to the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Quadruple Alliance was launched in 2007, but only gained momentum after violent clashes on the border between India and China and the spread of Chinese military power in the South China Sea.

On September 24, US President Joe Biden opened the QUAD Summit at the White House, in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, in order to find a united front in the face of Chinese influence.

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