US President Joe Biden Cancels Visit to Papua New Guinea

US President Joe Biden has decided to cancel his upcoming visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) due to an unfolding crisis over the US debt ceiling. Biden had planned to visit PNG and Australia as part of his Asia trip, but he has now cut short his visit to return to Washington.

Biden will still leave on Wednesday to attend a three-day G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. However, instead of proceeding to PNG after the summit, he will return to the United States to address domestic issues related to the debt ceiling.

The decision to cancel the PNG visit comes after criticism that Biden planned to be overseas for eight out of the remaining 16 days before the country could potentially default without raising the debt limit. Biden emphasized that defaulting on the debt is not an option, and he is currently engaged in discussions with congressional Republicans.

Biden had important engagements planned during his visit to PNG. In the capital city, Port Moresby, he was scheduled to witness the signing of a new strategic agreement with Micronesia and meet with 18 Pacific island leaders. Additionally, in Sydney, Biden was supposed to attend a meeting of the Quad nations (United States, Japan, Australia, and India), a group focused on countering China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The White House spokesperson, John Kirby, confirmed that Biden will still be able to meet with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G7 summit in Hiroshima. He also has scheduled meetings with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

Biden’s team has communicated with Papua New Guinea’s leaders to inform them of the decision to postpone the visit. Australian Prime Minister Albanese stated that Biden apologized for not being able to visit Australia and assured that they would work to reschedule the visit as soon as possible. He also mentioned his plans to visit Washington later this year for a state visit to the United States.

The cancellation of Biden’s visit is seen as a setback for Papua New Guinea and his efforts to strengthen ties with Pacific island countries amidst growing competition from China. Experts believe that the US domestic dysfunction weakens its position abroad, and although the White House will likely find ways to compensate for this in the short term, the impact of the cancellation remains significant.

The Treasury Department has warned that the United States could face a damaging default as early as June 1 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.

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