J3N Provides the Latest and Most Up-to-Date News, You Can Stay Informed and Connected to the World.
⎯ 《 Just 3 N : New News Now 》

Biden hosts Australian PM for gala visit amid crises

2023-10-25 17:21
US President Joe Biden hosts Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for a lavish state visit Wednesday where their focus on China risks being...
Biden hosts Australian PM for gala visit amid crises

US President Joe Biden hosts Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for a lavish state visit Wednesday where their focus on China risks being overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The 80-year-old Biden will treat Albanese to a gala dinner on the White House lawn after a day of diplomacy and a joint press conference in the famed Rose Garden.

The pomp-filled day reflects the importance Washington places on longtime ally Australia as a cornerstone of its strategy against an increasingly assertive Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region.

US officials said they were also closely aligned on the two conflicts that have been occupying Biden's time in the lead-up to the visit, in the Middle East and Ukraine. 

The fact that the White House canceled a performance at the dinner by rock band the B-52s for fear it would seem inappropriate underscored the grave situations the two leaders must discuss. 

"We are now in a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain, and we have decided to make adjustments to the entertainment portion of the evening," First Lady Jill Biden told reporters on Tuesday.

Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon arrived at the White House on Tuesday night, where Biden welcomed them and brushed off a question about whether he had asked Israel to delay its looming offensive on Gaza. 

That was followed by an informal dinner and an exchange of official gifts, with the Bidens giving the Australian first couple an antique 1886 writing desk. 

The state dinner on Wednesday night will be held in a temporary pavilion on the South Lawn and will feature an exchange of toasts.

- 'Moment of crisis' -

It will be just the fourth state dinner that Biden has hosted, with previous recipients being the leaders of France, South Korea and India.

Biden invited Albanese after he was forced to cancel a trip to Australia in May at the last minute and return to Washington to work on a deal with Congress to avoid a catastrophic US default.

The US Congress has now plunged into a fresh round of turmoil that threatens to hold up funding for the three-way AUKUS security deal between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Australian premier's visit takes place against a tense backdrop of multiple international crises.

US officials pointed out that Australia was one of the largest suppliers of military aid for Ukraine as it battles the Russian invasion and was supplying humanitarian aid to the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas war.

"At this moment of crisis in the Middle East, there's never been a more important time to double down on our cooperation with Australia," a senior US administration official told reporters.

"Not only in the Middle East, in Ukraine, but of course, in the Indo Pacific where our leaders will be principally focused," the official added, using the allies' term for the Asia-Pacific region.

On China, both Washington and Canberra are seeking something of a reset in their tense relations with Beijing. 

Albanese will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in early November, while Biden may meet Xi at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in San Francisco later the same month. 

"I know the president will be interested to share notes and compare details about what we're seeing with respect to Xi Jinping in China," another US official said.

The visit is also set to include announcements on technology cooperation -- including a $3.2 billion Microsoft investment focused on artificial intelligence -- and on clean energy and "critical minerals" to secure supply chains.