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Biden to visit Papua New Guinea next month – PNG official

2023-04-27T02:11:02Z

U.S. President Joe Biden attends an official State Dinner in Washington, U.S. April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

U.S. President Joe Biden will briefly visit the Pacific islands nation of Papua New Guinea in May, a Papua New Guinea official said on Thursday, as Washington seeks to counter growing Chinese influence in the strategically important region.

Biden will stop in the capital Port Moresby for three hours on his way to Australia to attend the Quad leaders summit, a spokesperson from the PNG Prime Minister’s office told Reuters.

A Pacific islands source told Reuters Biden is expected to meet with over a dozen Pacific islands leaders during his May visit to Port Moresby.

The meeting would be a significant move in U.S. efforts to push back against Chinese inroads in the region, and follows Biden hosting Pacific island leaders at the White House in September.

The Quad summit is being held in Sydney on May 24, with the leaders of India, Australia, Japan and the United States attending, Australia’s government has said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to visit Papua New Guinea on May 21 for a two-day visit en-route to Australia, where he will meet the Pacific island leaders, Papua New Guinea’s government has previously announced.

The PNG Post Courier newspaper reported on its front page on Thursday that the Biden stopover would be the first visit by a United States president to the resource-rich but largely undeveloped country of 9.4 million just north of Australia.

The United States embassy in Canberra referred questions to the White House. The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

White House officials have been considering tagging on a Pacific islands stop to Biden’s travel to the G7 in Japan and the Quad meeting in Australia, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The United States last year stepped up its diplomacy and aid to the Pacific region after China struck a security deal with the Solomon Islands, and Beijing attempted but failed to forge a wider security and trade pact with 10 island nations.

In a statement on Thursday, Fiji said its ministers for education, employment and women had met in Beijing with China’s foreign minister Qin Gang, and he had “highlighted the need to formalise the China – Pacific Island Countries relationship”.

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