US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Anthony Albanese toast ties in face of world crises

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese toasted Wednesday their shared stand on Israel, Ukraine and China during a lavish state visit aimed at deepening their countries’ century-old alliance.

“The alliance between Australia and the United States is an anchor to peace and prosperity,” the 80-year-old president said during a day of pomp and ceremony at the White House.

In the evening Biden treated Albanese, 60, to a gala dinner in a giant marquee erected on the South Lawn, with guests from the worlds of entertainment, business and technology.

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

“A great deal of the history of our world will be written in the Indo-Pacific in the coming years,” Biden said, using the allies’ term for the region. “Australia and the United States must write that story together.”

Standing on a stage backed by giant images of flowers, the two leaders raised their glasses to toast what Biden called “mateship,” a reference to the traditional Australian term “mate.” Guests included violinist Itzhak Perlman, actor John Leguizamo and rock band the B-52s — whose performance at the dinner was cancelled because of fears their party music would be inappropriate given events elsewhere. ‘Uncertain world’
At a joint press conference with Biden earlier, Albanese said the bond between the two countries was crucial in an “uncertain world.”

“The relationship between Australia and the United States has never been more important. And it has never been stronger than it is right now,” he said.

During talks in the Oval Office, the leaders discussed progress on the so-called AUKUS deal between Australia, Britain and the United States that will see Australia obtain nuclear-powered submarines.

The trip also included announcements on technology and climate change, along with plans to boost internet links and maritime infrastructure in Pacific island nations where China has been trying to expand its influence.

But the two leaders also addressed the Israel-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine. Both countries are providing military aid to Kyiv and humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza, while the US is supplying weapons to Israel.

Biden said both nations were “standing with Israel against Hamas terrorism” and “standing with Ukraine against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s tyranny.”

Albanese said “all Australians condemn the atrocities, terror and pitiless brutality of Hamas”.

China’s rise however remains a long-term concern for the two allies, even as they both seek something of a reset 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.

Biden said the United States was in “competition not conflict” with China, but took a tough tone on recent collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.

“I want to be very clear. The United States defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad,” he told the press conference.

The Australian is being treated to just the fourth state visit hosted by Biden since he took office in 2021, after the leaders of France, South Korea and India.

Biden apologized on Wednesday for having 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.

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