By Betsy Klein, CNN
President Joe Biden will travel to Papua New Guinea during a trip to the Indo-Pacific region this month, the White House announced Tuesday, marking the first visit of a sitting US president to the Pacific country.
The visit will take place between stops in Japan and Australia, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who called the partnership between the US and Pacific Island countries “critical.”
Jean-Pierre touted “deep historical and people-to-people ties” between the US and Pacific Island countries.
Biden will meet with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and other Pacific Island Forum leaders, Jean-Pierre said.
She continued, “The leaders will discuss ways to deepen cooperation on challenges critical to the region and to the United States such as combating climate change, protecting maritime resources, and advancing resilient and inclusive economic growth.”
The Papua New Guinea trip comes as the US is seeking to strengthen partnerships in the region as a counter to China’s rising influence. The Biden administration has worked to deepen its engagement with Pacific Island nations, including the announcements of new embassies in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Vanuatu.
Biden is set to attend the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, May 19-21, and will later attend the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Sydney, Australia, on May 24, where he will be joined by heads of state from Australia, Japan and India.
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CNN’s Angus Watson contributed to this report.