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Joe Biden urges Indo-Pacific leaders to make greater effort to stop Putin's war

US president Joe Biden (centre) is greeted by Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida (right) and his wife Yuko as he arrived for dinner at Kochuan, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Tokyo (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) 

President Joe Biden has told fellow Indo-Pacific leaders assembled for a four-country summit that they are navigating "a dark hour in our shared history" due to Russia's war on Ukraine and urged the group to make a greater effort to stop Vladimir Putin's aggression.

"This is more than just a European issue. It's a global issue," Mr Biden said as the "Quad" summit with Japan, Australia and India got under way.

While the president did not directly call out any countries, his message appeared to be pointed, at least in part, at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom differences persist over how to respond to the Russian invasion.

Unlike other Quad countries and nearly every other US ally, India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

With Mr Modi sitting nearby, Mr Biden made the case that the world has a shared responsibility to do something to assist Ukrainian resistance against Russia's aggression.

"We're navigating a dark hour in our shared history," he said. "The Russian brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and innocent civilians have been killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced as well as in exile."

"The world has to deal with it and we are," he added.

Later, in comments to reporters after a one-on-one meeting with Mr Modi, Mr Biden said Russia's invasion of Ukraine affects "the entire global world order".

Mr Biden added that the US and India will continue to consult "on how to mitigate these negative effects".

In his comments, Mr Modi made no mention of the war in Ukraine, instead ticking off several trade and investment programmes that he discussed with the president.

The White House has been effusive in its praise of several Pacific countries, including Japan, Singapore and South Korea, for stepping up to hit Russia with tough sanctions and export bans while offering humanitarian and military assistance to Kyiv.

For several of the bigger Asian powers, the invasion has been seen as a crucial moment for the world to demonstrate by a strong response to Russia that China should not try to seize contested territory through military action.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, taking note of Russia's aggression in Ukraine, told the other leaders: "We cannot let the same thing happen in the Indo-Pacific region."

The White House has been disappointed with the relative silence of India, the world's biggest democracy.

Mr Biden has asked Mr Modi not to accelerate the buying of Russian oil as the US and other allies look to squeeze Moscow's energy income.

The Indian prime minister made no public commitment to get off from Russian oil, and Mr Biden has publicly referred to India as "somewhat shaky" in its response to the invasion.

Facing Western pressure, India has condemned civilian deaths in Ukraine and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

Yet it also has compounded fallout from a war that has caused a global food shortage by banning wheat exports at a time when starvation is a growing risk in parts of the world.

Mr Biden has been making his case to Modi for weeks.

The two spoke about the Russian invasion during a virtual Quad leaders' meeting in March, and last month they had a short video conversation when Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met their Indian counterparts in Washington.

"So it won't be a new conversation," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said ahead of the summit. "It will be a continuation of the conversation they've already had about how we see the picture in Ukraine and the impacts of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine on a wider set of concerns in the world."

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