The leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India plan to hold a teleconference as early as mid-March to discuss ways to counter China's growing influence, Japanese government sources said Friday.

It would be the first summit involving members of the so-called Quad, a framework that was initially formed in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami but now mainly focuses on regional security.

Composite photo shows (from L, top row) U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, (from L, bottom row) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Kyodo)

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also expected to discuss the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and efforts to tackle climate change, the sources said.

The foreign ministers of the four countries held an online meeting last month, in which they agreed to work toward a "free and open Indo-Pacific" region while strongly opposing any attempts by Beijing to alter the status quo in the East and South China seas by force.

China has criticized the framework as an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization seeking to undermine its legitimate rise.