Blinken to visit Papua New Guinea and sign defense, maritime agreements

Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Washington
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(Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Papua New Guinea on May 21-22, sign bilateral defense and maritime security agreements and meet with Pacific Islands Forum leaders, the State Department said on Thursday, after President Joe Biden pulled out of a planned visit.

An unfolding crisis over the U.S. debt ceiling prompted Biden on Tuesday to postpone a trip to Papua New Guinea. The U.S. is trying to counterbalance China's rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region and the Biden visit was seen as part of that effort.

Blinken "plans to discuss a range of issues with Pacific Islands leaders, including shared priorities such as tackling the climate crisis (and) advancing inclusive economic growth for the people of the Pacific Islands...," the State Department said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; writing by Costas Pitas)