Biden heads to Japan for G7, reassures Pacific allies

·2-min read

US President Joe Biden said there was"work to do" on the global stage as he headed to Japan for Group of Seven summit to consult with allies on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and China's assertiveness in the Pacific.

With talks to head off a debt default underway in Washington, Biden pledged to remain in "constant contact" with negotiators while he conducts international diplomacy.

The president departed Washington on Wednesday aboard Air Force One a day after scrapping plans for a historic stop in Papua New Guinea and a key visit to Australia amid the showdown with House Republicans over raising the federal debt limit.

The three-nation trip had been meant as a triumphant global leadership showcase, and instead threatened to become a truncated reminder of how partisan disagreements have undercut US standing on the global stage.

"I've cut my trip short in order to be here for the final negotiations and sign the deal with the majority leader," Biden said before departing the White House. "I've made clear America is not a deadbeat nation, we pay our bills."

Aboard Air Force One en route to Japan, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy put Biden in the bad position of cancelling part of the trip.

Biden will become the second US president after Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb attack was carried out in the closing days of World War II in 1945.

Sustaining support for Ukraine's expected counteroffensive against Russia will take centre stage at the G7 summit, alongside economic, climate and global development issues. More than a year after Moscow's invasion, Biden and allies have armed Kyiv with ever-more-advanced weaponry and maintained deep sanctions on Russia's economy.

While in Hiroshima, Biden also plans to sit down with the so-called Quad leaders of Japan, Australia and India, a partnership meant to serve as a counterweight to China in the Indo-Pacific, a region that he bills as a top priority in US national security strategy. That meeting had originally been scheduled to occur next week on what would have been his inaugural visit to Canberra and Sydney as president.

When asked whether he thought his shortened trip was a win for China, he said: "No. Because we still work with allies."

White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the idea that jettisoning Australia would do any diplomatic damage or give China leverage, arguing Biden's reputation as a strong ally would help soften the blow while acknowledging the disappointment, particularly in PNG.

"The work that we need to do bilaterally with Australia and with the Pacific Islands is work that can be done at a later date, whereas the final stretch of negotiations over the debt limit or the budget cannot be done at a later date," Sullivan said.

with DPA