Biden cancels planned visit to Australia, Papua New Guinea to focus on debt limit talks

By AP News

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President Joe Biden has decided to curtail an upcoming visit to the Indo-Pacific to focus on the debt limit standoff at home

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is curtailing his upcoming trip to the Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a historic stop in Papua New Guinea as well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the so-called Quad partnership so he can focus on debt limit talks in Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The cancellation is a foreign policy setback for an administration that has made putting a greater focus on the Pacific region central to its global outreach.

Biden still plans to depart on Wednesday for Hiroshima, Japan, for a Group of Seven summit with leaders from some of the world's major economies. He will return to the U.S. on Sunday, according to the people familiar the matter who requested anonymity to discuss the yet to be formally announced decision.

Biden had been scheduled to travel on to Papua New Guinea to meet with Pacific Island leaders and then to Australia for a meeting of the leaders of the Quad partnership, made up of the U.S., Australia, India and Japan. The Papua New Guinea stop would have been the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the island country of more than 9 million people.

The Quad partnership first formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Since coming into office, Biden has tried to reinvigorate the Quad as part of his broader effort to put greater U.S. focus on the Pacific and counter increasing economic and military assertiveness by China in the region.

The president's decision was confirmed as Biden wrapped up a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies for talks on the debt limit standoff.

Earlier Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the White House was considering curtailing the president's trip to return to the U.S. for debt ceiling talks but had not made a decision on the matter.

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

Kirby noted that Biden would meet with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in Japan as well as Pacific Island leaders. 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 with Pacific Island leaders, Biden had hoped to demonstrate that the United States is committed to remaining engaged for the long term in the Pacific Islands.

The area has received diminished attention from the U.S. in the aftermath of the Cold War and China has increasingly filled the vacuum — through increased aid, development and security cooperation. Biden has said that he’s committed to changing that dynamic.

Last September, Biden hosted leaders from more than a dozen Pacific Island countries at the White House, announcing a new strategy to help to assist the region on climate change and maritime security. His administration also recently opened embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, and has plans to open one in Kiribati.

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Author: AP News

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