Senior officials from the United States, Australia, India and Japan on Friday reaffirmed the need to advance a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” region and agreed to coordinate the next “Quad” foreign ministers’ meeting next year, the U.S. and Japanese governments said.

The virtual meeting followed a gathering of foreign ministers from the four countries in Tokyo in October and came just over a month ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s departure from office. The Trump administration has viewed the grouping as helpful to counter China’s growing clout in the region.

According to the State Department, the officials discussed ways to coordinate efforts to support countries vulnerable to “malign and coercive economic actions” in the Indo-Pacific region.

They also explored opportunities for future Quad engagement on topics ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to coordinating efforts on the coronavirus pandemic response and vaccines, it said.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement that the participants also discussed regional situations such as North Korea and the East and South China seas, where Beijing’s maritime assertiveness has been increasing.

The four countries agreed to continue regular consultations and to arrange the next foreign ministers’ meeting at an “appropriate timing next year,” it said.

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