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Focus is on PNG

Joe Biden's Visit to Papua New Guinea on May 22, 2023

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May 11, 2023 The National

PAPUA New Guinea will be the focus of three regions of the world when leaders from the United States, India and the Pacific meet in Port Moresby this month.

The White House confirmed on Tuesday (local time) that President Joe Biden will visit Papua New Guinea in May (22), a “historic” first trip for a sitting US president, as Washington vies with Beijing for influence in the region.

Cabinet met late into the night yesterday to discuss the country’s agenda for the two meetings – the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation and the US-Pacific from May 22 to 24.

Biden will also meet with Pacific Island leaders as he seeks to deepen cooperation on issues “such as combating climate change, protecting maritime resources, and advancing resilient and inclusive economic growth,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden’s trip may also put the finishing touches on a US-Papua New Guinea Defence Cooperation Agreement that would allow more joint training and the development of security infrastructure.

Washington is working to establish a joint naval facility at Lombrum on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. The trip will come as Biden travels from the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan to the Quad Leaders’ summit in Sydney, Australia this month.

The South Pacific was seen as a relative diplomatic backwater after World War II, but it is an increasingly important arena for powers to compete for commercial, political and military influence – and could prove vital in any possible military conflagration over Taiwan.

Last month, Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko told a news conference that Biden would attend bilateral talks with his hosts and is “also having a meeting with the 18 Pacific Island leaders”.
The Pacific Island Forum is a regional bloc of mostly small states scattered across the vast swath of ocean.

The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand will also attend. – AFP

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