China on Monday criticized the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, who held their "Quad" summit meetings in Washington late last week, for "agitating threats" allegedly posed by the Communist-led government.

During the first in-person summit of the group of major Indo-Pacific democracies, the leaders of the four countries on Friday showcased their deepening ties in the face of China's security and economic assertiveness.

Their joint statement released after the meeting did not directly mention China, but their agenda items were apparently connected to the Asian power's rise, including its territorial claims in surrounding waters as well as trade and other issues.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that the United States has blatantly interfered in internal affairs of other nations, which would hurt peace, development and cooperation in the international community.

"China's development is the growth of the power for world peace and the gospel of regional prosperity," Hua said, adding the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden should "stop engaging in closed and exclusive small circles" for the sake of stability in the region.

The Quad originated in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. But in recent years, the group has gained traction as a counterweight to China's growing clout in the Asia-Pacific region amid increasing Sino-U.S. rivalry.

Biden has placed emphasis on the Quad as one of the "new configurations" designed to take on the challenges of this century, along with the just-launched Indo-Pacific security partnership among Australia, Britain and the United States, dubbed AUKUS.

The Global Times, a tabloid of the ruling Communist Party, said Saturday that the Quad is an "initiative that aims to incite disputes and confrontation under the banner of cooperation especially in the Western Pacific."

Most countries, however, have not been "wanting to pick sides" between China and the United States, the newspaper said, adding Washington "could not form an anti-China coalition like what it did to the Soviet Union during the Cold War."

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