New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed he will take part in a historic United States-Pacific Summit this month with U.S President Joe Biden.
Hipkins had been awaiting an invitation from Biden to attend the meeting in Papua New Guinea with other Pacific Island Forum members, which he said he received Thursday.
The meeting will take place on 22 May.
It comes after the White House confirmed Biden would make the stop in Papua New Guinea while travelling from the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan to the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Sydney, Australia.
The historic visit comes as the U.S continues to ramp up its diplomatic push in the Pacific to counter China’s rising influence.
Washington stepped up efforts after China struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year. China attempted to reach a wider security and trade deal with 10 Pacific island countries, which ultimately failed.
Biden’s visit follows the first U.S–Pacific Island Summit in Washington, DC last year, and a major package of initiatives announced at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji by Vice-President Kamala Harris, which includes opening new embassies and NZ$1 billion (US$630 million) over the next decade towards fishing payments and economic support.
The Tonga Embassy was opened this week in Nuku’alofa and in March the U.S signalled plans to open an Embassy in Vanuatu. There are also plans for an embassy in Kiribati.
Papua New Guinea is negotiating security deals with the United States and Australia, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has been invited to visit Beijing this year.
Hipkins said this week he “welcomed” Biden’s visit to the Pacific.
“That’s something that New Zealand has encouraged and we’re very supportive of it.”
In Papua New Guinea, Biden would meet with Prime Minister Marape and other Pacific Island Forum leaders, who had already planned to meet in Port Moresby on 22 May with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Hipkins and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are also expected to be there.
“We haven’t received a formal invitation at this point,” Hipkins said.
“But in the event that I do receive an invitation that would be my intention to accept it.”
The White House said Biden and Pacific leaders would “discuss ways to deepen co-operation on challenges critical to the region and to the United States such as combatting climate change, protecting maritime resources, and advancing resilient and inclusive economic growth”.
“As a Pacific nation, the United States has deep historical and people-to-people ties with the Pacific Islands, and this visit – the first time a sitting U.S President has visited a Pacific Island country – further reinforces this critical partnership.”
SOURCE: NZ HERALD/PACNEWS