Biden, Modi to meet Pacific leaders

US President Joe Biden and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, will join Pacific Islands leaders next month for a “historic” future-oriented meeting, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape said on Sunday.

“This is a historic first and at the same time a ‘going forward’ futuristic meeting of global superpowers, in the biggest country in the Pacific,” Marape said in a statement.

Biden’s May 22 stopover in the capital Port Moresby would be the first visit by a sitting US president to the resource-rich but largely undeveloped country of 9.4 million people just north of Australia.

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Papua New Guinea is being courted by China and by the US and its allies, as Marape seeks to boost foreign investment. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the nation in 2018.

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 failed to reach a wider security and trade deal with 10 Pacific island countries.

China and Australia have been major aid and infrastructure donors.

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