U.S. President Joe Biden will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua New Guinea this month in a trip following the G7 in Japan, marking the administration’s investment in the Pacific region as a counter to China.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would meet Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape and other Pacific Island Forum leaders.
“The leaders will discuss ways to deepen cooperation on challenges critical to the region and to the U.S., such as combating climate change, protecting maritime resources, and advancing resilient and inclusive economic growth,” she said.
Biden’s expected May 22 stopover in the capital, Port Moresby, will be the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the resource-rich but largely undeveloped country of 9.4 million people just north of Australia.
Papua New Guinea is being courted by China, the United States, and its allies as Marape seeks to boost foreign investment.
Washington has stepped up efforts to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the region after China struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year. China then failed to reach a wider security and trade deal with 10 Pacific island countries.
China and Australia have been major aid and infrastructure donors.
Papua New Guinea is negotiating security pacts with the United States, and Marape has been invited to visit Beijing this year.
The 18 countries and territories in the Pacific Islands Forum together cover 30 million square kilometers of ocean. The region’s leaders say climate change is their greatest security threat amid worsening cyclones and rising sea levels.
Biden will stop in Papua New Guinea on his way to Sydney, Australia, for the May 24 summit of the Quad, which will also include Japan and Australia.