Australia cancels Quad leaders summit after Biden postpones trip; may meet at sidelines of G7 in Japan

Melbourne: US President Biden postpones trip to turn his attention to domestic politics

BY | Wednesday, 17 May, 2023

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday cancelled next week’s Quad leaders meeting in Sydney after US President Joe Biden postponed his visit to Australia to focus on crucial debt-ceiling talks to prevent a catastrophic federal default.

Speaking to the media, Albanese said it is still possible that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will visit Sydney next week.

“The Quad leaders’ meeting will not be going ahead in Sydney next week,” Albanese said in Tweed Heads, a town in New South Wales.

Albanese said the leaders of Australia, the US, India and Japan would now meet at the G7 Summit in Japan this weekend.

“We, though, will be having that discussion between Quad leaders in Japan. I thank Prime Minister (Fumio) Kishida for his invitation for me to attend the G7 and it is appropriate that we talk. The Quad is an important body and we want to make sure that it occurs at the leadership level and we’ll be having that discussion over the weekend,” Albanese said.

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US President Biden announced on Tuesday that he will postpone the Australia leg of his Asia trip, along with that of Papua New Guinea, given the uncertainty and intense negotiations with the opposition Republican party to ensure that America does not default on its debt for the first time in history.

President Biden has been forced to turn his attention to domestic politics, as he works to hash out a deal with Republicans to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts at the end of this month.

“Because that has to be solved prior to June 1 – otherwise there are quite drastic consequences for the US economy, which will flow on to the global economy – he understandably has had to make that decision,” Albanese said.

The Prime Minister also said Biden was “disappointed” as he was unable to come to Australia and that the Quad leaders would instead try to gather on the margins of the G7 leaders meeting in Hiroshima.

“All four leaders – President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida, Prime Minister Modi and myself – will be at the G7, held in Hiroshima on Saturday and Sunday. We are attempting to get together over that period of time [and] I’ll have a bilateral discussion with President Biden,” he said.

“At this stage, we haven’t got a time locked in for that arrangement.”

Albanese said it was still possible that Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would visit Sydney next week, but officials in all three countries were still trying to confirm their plans.

“Prime Minister Modi had a bilateral meeting scheduled for Sydney as well. We are in discussions with the Quad leaders today. We’ll make further announcements about that, but Prime Minister Modi would certainly be a very welcome guest here next week,” he said.

“And, of course, I received the warmest of welcomes by Prime Minister Modi in India in March. I’ll be attending the G20 meeting that will be held in New Delhi later this year as well. Obviously, the decision by President Biden that he has been forced to make because of the holding-up of those budget issues in the United States means that the rescheduling of other arrangements is being made and those discussions are taking place respectfully over the course of today,” he said.

“We are in discussions with the Quad leaders over today. We’ll make further announcements about that, but Prime Minister Modi would certainly be a very welcome guest here next week,” he said.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the “Quad” to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence amid China’s aggressive behaviour in the region.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.

Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.

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