Briefly: President Joe Biden has cancelled his visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) next week to focus instead on US debt ceiling negotiations back in Washington. He was also due to head to Sydney for a summit of Quad leaders (US, Australia, India, Japan), but that’s now been axed too.
Biden was supposed to sign key security deals in PNG this Monday (22 May), during the first visit by a sitting US President to any Pacific Island country.
And those security pacts should still be signed at some point (they’ve already been agreed in substance). They include:
- 💪 An agreement to deepen defence cooperation with PNG
- 🚢 A deal for the US coast guard to help patrol PNG’s vast waters, and
- 🤝 The renewal of a major security and economic treaty with Micronesia.
But still… like a tourist who’s just tried root beer for the first time, folks in the Pacific will now be left with a pretty mixed taste in their mouth.
Intrigue’s take: We were a bit upset that we had to rewrite this story at the last minute. We can only imagine the despair in PNG and Australia, where officials have long been prepping to host POTUS.
But this is bigger than all that. Many of PNG’s ten million folks will today:
- 🛣️ drive to work on a China-built highway
- 🏫 drop their kids at a China-built school, and
- 🛬 catch a flight to one of PNG’s China-built airports.
They might also pass one of the sites visited by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to PNG in 2018 (one of his three visits to the region).
Folks will then turn on the radio to hear news that the US president has axed a first-ever (and three hour) visit because of turmoil back home. They’ll then turn off the radio and head to an event at PNG’s China-built convention centre.
So you can see the picture the US is helping paint for itself in the region.
An analyst and friend of Intrigue summed it all up for us: “This is such a classic, unnecessary example of exactly how the US shoots itself in the face, and sends Indo-Pacific countries back towards China.”
Also worth noting:
- PNG had just declared a national public holiday for Biden’s visit.
- Last year the US hosted its first-ever US-Pacific Island Country Summit, which was attended by more than a dozen Pacific Island states.