Social Navigation

Biden scraps planned visit to Australia and Papua New Guinea to focus on debt limit talks


WASHINGTON : President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he is curtailing his upcoming trip to the Indo-Pacific, scrapping what would become a historic stop in Papua New Guinea, as well as visiting Australia for a meeting with co-leaders of the so-called Quad Partnership, so he can focus on debt reduction talks in Washington.

The cancellation is a foreign policy setback for a government that has placed a greater focus on the Pacific at the center of its global reach.

Biden said he still plans to leave for Hiroshima, Japan, on Wednesday for a Group of Seven summit featuring leaders from some of the world’s largest economies. He will return to the US on Sunday.

“I am postponing the Australia leg of the trip and my stop in Papua New Guinea to be back for final negotiations with congressional leaders,” Biden said at the start of a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House. added: “The nature of the presidency is that many of the critical issues are dealt with all at once. So I am confident that we will continue to make progress in avoiding bankruptcy and fulfilling America’s responsibility as a leader in the world stage.”

Biden said he had spoken with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier on Tuesday to inform him that he was postponing a visit to Australia and invited him to Washington for an official state visit at a date yet to be determined. White House officials told Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape the news.

White House officials did not immediately respond to questions about when Biden might reschedule visits to the two countries.

“Revitalizing and revitalizing our alliances and advancing partnerships like the Quad remains a top priority for the president,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. welfare. We look forward to finding other ways to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea and the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in the coming year.”

Biden was scheduled to travel on to Papua New Guinea to meet Pacific Island leaders and then to Australia for a meeting of the leaders of the Quad Partnership, comprising the US, Australia, India and Japan. The stop in Papua New Guinea would have been the first visit by a sitting US president to the island country of more than 9 million people.

The Quad partnership first emerged during the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which killed some 230,000 people. Since taking office, Biden has sought to revive the Quad as part of his broader effort to refocus the US more on the Pacific and counter China’s rising economic and military assertiveness in the region.

Biden announced his decision shortly after concluding a Tuesday afternoon meeting with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies. the House of Representatives, for talks on the debt limit deadlock.

Earlier on Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby expressed frustration among administration officials that the debt talks are impacting the president’s actions on the international stage.

“We shouldn’t have to have this conversation. I wouldn’t have to answer these questions if Congress just did the right thing,” Kirby said.

Some Republican lawmakers are questioning Biden’s decision to travel abroad given the ramifications of the debt limit talks.

“I think he shouldn’t leave and he should focus on the debt limit here at home,” said Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla.

Kirby noted that Biden would meet in Japan with Albanian and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as leaders from the Pacific Islands. Biden already had plans to hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the Hiroshima visit.

With the brief stop in Papua New Guinea to meet leaders from the Pacific Islands, Biden had hoped to demonstrate the United States’ determination to remain engaged with the Pacific Islands for the long haul.

The area has received less attention from the US in the aftermath of the Cold War, and China has increasingly filled the vacuum – through increased aid, development and security cooperation. Biden has said he is determined to change that dynamic.

Last September, Biden hosted leaders from more than a dozen Pacific islands at the White House, where he announced a new strategy to help the region tackle climate change and maritime security. His government also recently opened embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, and has plans to open one in Kiribati.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.