President Biden is cutting his international trip short and will return to the U.S. for debt limit negotiations instead of visiting Papua New Guinea and Australia as initially planned.
Biden will still leave Wednesday for a three-day G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, but his previously scheduled stops to Papua New Guinea and Australia will be postponed.
He would have been the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua New Guinea, where he was originally expected to be in the capital of Port Moresby to witness the signing of a new strategic agreement with Micronesia and meet with 18 Pacific island leaders.
The president had planned to visit Sydney, Australia, next week for the annual Quad Leaders’ Summit to meet with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India to discuss initiatives to counter China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Biden told reporters he spoke on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese about his decision to postpone the trip.
‘Defaulting on the debt is simply not an option,’ Biden said.
White House spokesperson John Kirby said the president would have the opportunity to meet Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Hiroshima, where he also has meetings planned with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.
Albanese said in a statement that Biden apologized for not being able to visit Australia and that the two leaders would try to reschedule. The Australian leader also said he would visit Washington later this year.
Biden’s decision not to visit Australia comes after Albanese recently placed pressure on the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is locked in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in London amid a legal battle over his potential extradition to the U.S., where he could be sentenced to as many as 175 years in an American maximum security prison.
Assange is facing 17 charges for receiving, possessing and communicating classified information to the public under the espionage act and one charge alleging a conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for Wikileaks’ 2010 publication of classified military documents leaked to him by a whistleblower that detailed war crimes committed by the U.S. government in the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Albanese’s office declined to comment to Fox News Digital on whether he had planned to bring up Assange’s case to Biden. The prime minister’s office instead referred to a recent interview he gave on the matter.
‘I, of course, don’t discuss the private discussions that I have with leaders of other countries,’ Albanese told ABC’s 7:30 last week. ‘But my public comments are the same as my private ones here. And we have made our views very clear to the U.S. administration. We’ll continue to do so. And a solution needs to be found that brings this matter to a conclusion. And Mr. Assange needs to be a part of that, of course, and so I’m hopeful that that will occur. It has been too long. And in my view, as I’ve said before, I see nothing is served from the further incarceration of Mr. Assange.’
Papua New Guinea’s leaders were also informed by White House officials of Biden’s decision to cancel his visit.
The Treasury Department has estimated that the U.S. will default as soon as June 1 if Congress does not lift the debt ceiling.
The White House has repeatedly blamed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for a deal on the debt limit not being reached. House Republicans have proposed a bill to raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion or until the end of March 2024, while capping discretionary government spending at fiscal 2022 levels.
Reuters contributed to this report.