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Biden to leave for Hiroshima for G-7 summit on May 17 as planned

Biden to leave for Hiroshima for G-7 summit on May 17 as planned

NIIGATA, JAPAN – U.S. President Joe Biden will leave next Wednesday for Hiroshima to attend a Group of Seven summit, the White House said, indicating his travel may go forward as planned although talks over a looming government default have yet to bear fruit.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing Friday that Biden will discuss with his counterparts “a range of the most pressing global issues including the G-7 unwavering support for Ukraine,” climate change and food security.

Her remarks came after Biden earlier this week did not rule out staying in the United States to handle an impasse in negotiations with congressional leaders over the government’s debt ceiling.

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Asked whether the announcement should be taken as Biden having changed his mind, Jean-Pierre said, “What I can say right now is that he’s expecting to go. I can say that for sure, in this moment, that he’s expecting to go.”

Jean-Pierre said she had spoken to Biden about the upcoming G-7 summit and he wanted it to be known that his travel plans have not changed.

She repeated several times that the president is “expected to go” to Hiroshima as planned when also asked if the White House is now confident the debt limit stalemate will be resolved by Wednesday morning.

The White House said first lady Jill Biden will join the president for the G-7 summit.

Earlier in the day, John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, said the president is “looking forward” to traveling to Japan to attend the G-7 summit.

“We are excited about this trip. It’s an important trip,” Kirby added during a press briefing.

He warned that a debt limit breach would have wider adverse effects, sending “a horrible message to nations like Russia and China, who would love nothing more than to be able to point at this and say, ‘See…the United States is not a stable leader of peace and security around the world.'”

Biden has been struggling to reach a deal with top congressional leaders to avert the risk of an unprecedented government default as early as June 1. The summit this year, chaired by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, is due to begin May 19 and will also bring together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union.

Biden’s much-anticipated meeting with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy and three other top congressional leaders on the debt ceiling was initially scheduled for Friday. But it has been postponed until early next week due to a lack of progress in preparations for the five to sit together.

Announcing the schedule change on Thursday, McCarthy stepped up criticism of Biden and said, “Apparently, President Biden doesn’t want a deal, he wants a default.”

Biden, who has been asking Republicans to raise the $31.4 trillion ceiling without conditions, said Wednesday that “depending on the state of play in the negotiations,” he could participate in the G-7 summit “virtually.”

The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money the government can legally borrow to cover its spending. The deadlock continues as Republicans, who control the House, have insisted they will not raise the limit without an agreement to slash future expenditures.

Meanwhile, staff-level talks have been taking place to follow up on discussions at the White House on Tuesday, when Biden and the four congressional leaders made no progress.

Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday that the talks among staffers have been “productive,” although she stopped short of providing details, pointing out that the conversations were private.

“It’s been continuing…they’re going to meet over the weekend,” she said. “I think that should kind of tell you that the conversations are going in the right direction.”

By Takuya Karube.

Disclaimer: This report is auto generated from the KYODO NEWS. Diplomat Times holds no responsibility for its content.