Saturday, 10 June, 2023

Biden to make landmark visit to Papua New Guinea

Biden to make landmark visit to Papua New Guinea

Joe Biden is set to become the first sitting US president in at least a century to visit Papua New Guinea, Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko said Thursday, revealing plans for a brief but symbolic trip.

Biden plans to stop in Port Moresby in May as he travels between a G7 summit in Japan and a Quad summit in Sydney, Australia, the foreign minister said.

"He is coming on the 22nd, in the morning, and will be here for three hours only," Tkatchenko said, adding that talks were expected to focus on the economy, security and climate change.

The presidential trip is a nod to Papua New Guinea's rapidly growing strategic importance, as the United States and its allies tussle with China for influence across the Asia-Pacific.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Port Moresby in 2018 to much fanfare, with Chinese flags hoisted across the capital and his motorcade whizzing past gathered crowds.

The trip was seen as a major diplomatic coup for Beijing.

US and Australian officials have been concerned by a rapid uptick in Chinese investment in the resource-rich Melanesian nation.

There have also been concerns that China has been trying to establish a military outpost, prompting Washington to float the idea of establishing a joint naval facility on Manus Island.

A series of US secretaries of state have visited in the past, including Hillary Clinton and then US vice president Mike Pence in 2018, who stepped in when president Donald Trump cancelled his attendance at a regional summit.

According to State Department records, which date back to Theodore Roosevelt's administration in 1901, no sitting US president has visited Papua New Guinea.