Biden in foreign policy setback after ditching Quad

·2-min read

US President Joe Biden has cancelled a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the Quad partnership so he can focus on debt limit talks in Washington.

The cancellation is a foreign policy setback for an administration that has made putting a greater focus on the Pacific region central to its global outreach.

Biden said he still plans to depart on Wednesday for Hiroshima, Japan, for a Group of Seven summit with leaders from some of the world's major economies. He will return to the US on Sunday.

"I'm postponing the Australia portion of the trip and my stop in Papua New Guinea in order to be back for the final negotiations with congressional leaders," Biden said at the start of a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House.

"The nature of the presidency is addressing many of the critical matters all at once. So I'm confident we're going to continue to make progress toward avoiding the default and fulfilling America's responsibility as a leader on the world stage."

Biden said he spoke to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to inform him he was postponing a visit to Australia and invited him to Washington for an official state visit at a yet-to-be determined date.

White House staff also broke the news to PNG Prime Minister James Marape.

"Revitalising and reinvigorating our alliances and advancing partnerships like the Quad remains a key priority for the President," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

"This is vital to our ability to advance our foreign policy goals and better promote global stability and prosperity. We look forward to finding other ways to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea and the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in the coming year."

The PNG stop would have been the first visit by a sitting US president to the island country of more than nine million people.

The Quad partnership first formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Since coming into office, Biden has tried to reinvigorate the Quad as part of his broader effort to put greater US focus on the Pacific and counter increasing economic and military assertiveness by China in the region.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby expressed administration officials' frustration the debt talks are having an impact on the president's dealings on the international stage.

"We wouldn't have to have this conversation. I wouldn't have to answer these questions if Congress just did the right thing," Kirby said.

Kirby noted that Biden would meet with Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in Japan as well as Pacific Island leaders.