Biden may briefly visit Papua New Guinea on way to summit in Sydney

Stopover in most populous Pacific island country could serve to underline US support for region.
By Stephen Wright for BenarNews
2023.04.27
Wellington
Biden may briefly visit Papua New Guinea on way to summit in Sydney President Joe Biden (center) speaks as he poses with (left to right) Federated States of Micronesia's President David Panuelo, Fiji's then Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape and other leaders at the U.S.- Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington on Sept. 29, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Joe Biden may stop in Papua New Guinea for several hours on his way to Australia later this month, an official and media reports said, in an attempt to highlight a renewed U.S. commitment to the Pacific after inroads by China. 

Papua New Guinea’s Post Courier newspaper reported Thursday that Biden would visit the capital Port Moresby for three hours in May, without giving a specific date. An official in the Papua New Guinea prime minister’s office confirmed that May 22 is the expected date of the visit, if it goes ahead.

The White House has said Biden will take part in a G7 leaders summit in Japan from May 19-21 and attend a May 24 summit in Sydney with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India under a grouping known as the Quad. It has not announced a stopover in Papua New Guinea, the most populous Pacific island country with more than 9 million people.

Over several decades, China has become a substantial source of trade, aid and infrastructure for developing Pacific island countries as it seeks to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and build its own set of global institutions. 

Last year, China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands, alarming the United States and its allies such as Australia. As part of efforts to counter Beijing’s influence in the Pacific, Biden hosted a meeting of Pacific island leaders in September last year in Washington.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Papua New Guinea for several days in November 2018, when Port Moresby hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. China bankrolled much of the infrastructure for the summit such as new roads and a conference center.

Aside from a possible Biden visit, Papua New Guinea will host India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi from May 22-23, according to the Pacific island country’s foreign ministry. 

It said in a statement last month that leaders from 12 Pacific countries will be in Port Moresby at that time for an India-Pacific islands forum.

BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news organization.

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