Australian leader plans meeting with Biden after India trip
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday he plans to meet with President Joe Biden in the United States following a trip to India this week, amid speculation the leaders will make an announcement about Australia’s plans to build nuclear-powered submarines.
Albanese gave few details of the U.S. trip, saying there would be further announcements about the arrangements. Albanese is visiting India through Saturday.
U.K. officials said Wednesday that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will meet with Biden and Albanese in San Diego on Monday for talks on Australia’s procurement of nuclear submarines under the AUKUS defense agreement among the three nations.
The White House confirmed the meetings in a statement released later Wednesday.
The previous Australian government infuriated France in 2021 by canceling a $66 billion contract for a French-built fleet of conventionally powered submarines and opting instead for nuclear-powered versions in a deal secretly brokered with the U.S. and Britain.
The deal came amid concern in Australia and the U.S. about China’s increasingly assertive presence in the Pacific region.
Albanese has stood by the AUKUS agreement to embrace nuclear technology. An announcement on whether Australia will opt for a version of the U.S. Virginia-class or British Astute-class submarines is expected soon.
Albanese made the remarks Wednesday to reporters at Perth Airport before boarding his plane to India.
He arrived later Wednesday in Ahmedabad in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat at the start of his four-day visit.
Albanese paid tributes to Mohandas Gandhi, India’s independence leader, during a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, which was one of Gandhi’s abodes in India. Albanese later attended a cultural event related to the Hindu Holi festival at the state governor’s residence.
On Thursday, Modi and Albanese are scheduled to spend some time watching a cricket match between the visiting Australian team and its Indian rivals in Ahmedabad.
Albanese will later leave for Mumbai, where he will visit India’s homemade aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was commissioned into the Indian navy in September. The two leaders will hold official talks in New Delhi on Friday.
“Australia and India are important partners,” Albanese said in Perth. “We share common values. We are both vibrant democracies. We have an interest in improving our economic relations.”
He said India, along with Indonesia, would grow to be the third- and fourth-largest economies in the world, which presented “an incredible opportunity” for Australia.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
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