Biden to host New Zealand leader at White House
President Biden will host New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the White House on Tuesday, the first visit of a leader from the South Pacific island nation since 2014 that comes amid mounting tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Biden and Ardern will discuss the existing partnership between the U.S. and New Zealand as well as their desire for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, according to a White House statement. They will also “discuss strengthening cooperation to support the Pacific Islands region” and economic matters.
The visit comes about a week after Biden’s trip to East Asia, where he met with leaders from Australia, Japan and India to discuss China’s buildup of artificial islands and naval bases and its partnership with other nations in the region to create military installations.
China has also grown increasingly hostile toward Taiwan, a sovereign island nation off the coast the government in Beijing still sees as historically part of the mainland. Biden increased the tensions last weekend when he said the U.S. would respond militarily to any Chinese aggression on Taiwan, even though the White House quickly said there was no change in the U.S. policy of not intervening.
The meeting with Ardern also comes after the Biden administration unveiled the Indo-Pacific economic framework, which seeks to deepen trade ties between the U.S. and several nations in the region with which it aligns. The White House said the president will discuss the framework with Ardern, who is also set to talk with U.S. senators about trade and tourism during her visit.
Officials said the two leaders will also talk about the climate crisis, ways to tackle terrorism and the “radicalization to violence both off and online.”
The U.S. is still reeling from a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a lone gunman shot and killed 19 children and two adults. New Zealand is no stranger to violence, either, after a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019, killing at least 50 people.
Authorities said the Texas and New Zealand shooters — in what is becoming an increasingly common trend among mass shooters — both posted disturbing content in chat forums and social media sites before the massacres.
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