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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled about Australia’s poor relationship with China by reporters in the US.
Mr Morrison was speaking outside the White House at the end of the first in-person meeting of the leaders of Australia, the United States, India and Japan which make up the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
The gathering of the four major democracies was being closely observed by China, which earlier this week said it was "doomed to fail".
During a live TV interview on Saturday, the PM was asked if he hoped China received a message from the Quad meeting.
He responded the group was about building "a stronger, more prosperous, more stable, a positive initiative designed to lift the well-being of the people of the Indo-Pacific” and it operated "as a partner" to countries including China.
Australia’s relationship with China has only gotten worse in recent weeks after it signed a defence pact with the US and UK which included nuclear-powered submarines. The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, promised China would punish Australia "with no mercy" if there was any military conflict to arise from the tension.
During the media conference, another US reporter asked Mr Morrison what the Quad was trying to counter "Chinese aggression" and why the PM "won't mention China". The reporter also asked whether he would speak to suggestions of “belligerence” in the region.
"Well, what we talked about today is how we achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific, and the way you do that is that countries like Australia and India and the United States and Japan – we stand up for the values that we believe in," he said.
"And we resist any suggestion or any pressure that would come on any of us to be anything different to what we are.
"And we want that opportunity for all countries in the Indo-Pacific, whoever they are. They value their sovereignty. They value their independence and that should be a shared project by all countries in the Indo-Pacific."
Australia to host 2022 clean energy summit
The PM added Australia will host a clean energy summit next year under the Quad umbrella and take a bigger role in the supply of critical minerals in the Indo-Pacific region.
On the planned climate summit to be held in Australia in 2022, Mr Morrison said it would be an "applied summit" focusing on expert research and technology.
It aims to deliver a roadmap to transfer scientific knowledge on clean energy to countries in the Indo-Pacific.
"This is about ... pulling together a very clear work program as to how clean energy supply chains can be built up," Mr Morrison said, without giving more details.
In tandem, the Quad leaders recognised the role a resource-rich Australia can play in the supply of critical minerals to support energy and other technologies.
"We are really good at digging stuff up in Australia and making sure it can fuel the rest of the world when it comes to the new energy economy," Mr Morrison said.
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