Type to search

Biden May Visit Papua New Guinea to Bolster Pacific Ties

The US President will fly to Japan for a G7 meeting in May, and is looking to stopover in Port Moresby to meet Pacific leaders en-route to a Quad summit in Sydney

US President Joe Biden will sign defence and surveillance agreements when he visits Papua New Guinea later this month.
US President Joe Biden is seen with Pacific island leaders in Washington in Sept 2022 (White House image).


Joe Biden may be set to make a historic visit to Papua and New Guinea next month in a further bid to boost ties with Pacific Island leaders.

The United States is anxious to woo island leaders after a concerted push by China to split the region and set up bases in the Pacific, in a similar manner to the support it lavished on small states like Cambodia and Laos in Southeast Asia.

Biden is scheduled to fly to the G7 meeting in Hiroshima (May 19-21), before making a short visit to Papua New Guinea en-route to a Quad security summit in Sydney.

Biden’s brief visit to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG), tentatively scheduled for May 22, is part of Western efforts to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to stopover in Port Moresby after the G7 meeting in Japan, before flying down to the Quad summit at the Sydney Opera House.


China Firm Nabs Solomon Islands Port Deal as US Watches On


Short stopover proposed

The United States needs to accelerate diplomatic “catch up” with the Pacific island region in the face of Chinese competition, a US diplomat said on Friday, adding that he was sure President Biden would be warmly welcomed there if he decided to visit.

Joseph Yun, a special presidential envoy who leads renegotiation of agreements with three Pacific island states, was asked at a US think tank about what officials from Papua & New Guinea say are plans by Biden to make a brief stop there on May 22.

“Obviously for the Pacific, I am sure they would welcome President Biden, if he were to go there,” Yun told the Hudson Institute.

“I don’t think that decision has been fully made,” he said while adding: “It is a good thing whenever heads of state get engaged on new issues.”

A stopover by Biden in PNG would be the first visit by a sitting US president to the resource-rich but largely undeveloped country of 9.4 million people just north of Australia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Papua and New Guinea in late 2018 for an APEC meeting. China has been pushing to build a huge port on Daru, a PNG island just north of Australia.

Biden would only be in the capital Port Moresby for three hours on his way to Australia to attend the Quad leaders summit, a spokesperson from the PNG Prime Minister’s office told Reuters.


Pacific leaders to gather in PNG

Some 14 Pacific island leaders will meet in Port Moresby on May 22 with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and planning for Biden to also meet the region’s leaders during his visit was underway but not confirmed, a spokesperson for PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko said.

The meeting would be a significant move in US efforts to push back against Chinese inroads in the region, and follows Biden hosting Pacific island leaders at the White House in September.

The Quad summit is being held in Sydney on May 24, with the leaders of India, Australia, Japan and the US attending, the Australian government has said.

Modi arrives in PNG on May 21 for a two-day visit en-route to Australia, the island nation’s government has previously announced.

White House officials have been considering including a Pacific islands stop in Biden’s trip to the G7 in Japan and the Quad meeting in Australia, sources have said, but the National Security Council has not confirmed the plans.


‘Crucial for US security after years of neglect’

The United States last year stepped up its diplomacy and aid to the Pacific region after China struck a security deal with the Solomon Islands, and Beijing attempted but failed to forge a wider security and trade pact with 10 island nations.

In a statement on Thursday, Fiji said its ministers for education, employment and women had met in Beijing with China’s foreign minister Qin Gang, and he had “highlighted the need to formalise the China – Pacific Island Countries relationship”.

Yun said there was a concerning level of Chinese coercion in a region crucial to US national security, but one that had been neglected by the United States.

“So now we’re playing … a little bit of catch-up, I would say, and but you know, we need to accelerate our catch-up.”

Yun has been leading talks to renew so-called Compact for Free Association (COFA) agreements with the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia under which the United States retains responsibility for the islands’ defence and gains exclusive access to huge strategic swathes of the Pacific. The deals are due expire this year and next.

Yun said the “topline” agreements in the negotiations with the nations would provide them with a total of about $6.5 billion over 20 years.

He said he was very optimistic the agreements would be finalised and that the US Congress would approve them in a short time, but there is still some hard work ahead.


  • Reuters with additional reporting and editing by Jim Pollard


NOTE: The headline on this report was amended and more details added on April 29, 2023.




Biden Vows to Help Pacific Islands Fight Climate Change



Chinese Officials Told to Leave Pacific Summit – Guardian


China and Australia Make Rival Bids to Woo Pacific Island Nations


Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond