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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

NZ’s Ardern to discuss US engagement in Indo-Pacific with Biden

China has made a concerted push to grow its influence and the country's foreign minister is currently in Tonga as part of a region-wide tour.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will meet U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday at the White House, where she said she expects to discuss ongoing U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Top of mind for us, alongside the situation in Ukraine, is the situation in our region,” she told New Zealand media at a press conference in Washington D.C. “We’ll be encouraging the United States to really continue and strengthen engagement in our region including economic engagement, which is really critical to our region.”

The meeting has taken on greater importance as New Zealand in recent weeks has raised concerns about China’s presence in the region following news that Beijing had signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands. China has made a concerted push to grow its influence and the country’s foreign minister is currently in Tonga as part of a region-wide tour.

Ardern said along with meeting Biden, she also expected to meet Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell.

“It’s not about annouceables. It’s not about new initiatives. It is actually about that relationship,” she said.

Ardern has been in the United States as part of a trade delegation promoting New Zealand and business. She also delivered the commencement address at Harvard University.

The two countries are close friends but the meeting with Biden had been uncertain after Ardern tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, given strict White House pandemic protocols.

Testing was required for tomorrow’s White House visit when Ardern will meet President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Read more: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern pays rich tribute to Benazir Bhutto

Three members of Ardern’s delegation have now also tested positive for COVID.

Ardern said that they had enough people to continue with the official meeting at the White House.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk