US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed Wednesday their shared stand on Israel, Ukraine and China during a state visit aimed at reinforcing a century-old alliance.
After a lavish ceremony on the White House lawn featuring a marching band and nearly 4,000 flag-waving guests, Biden said the two countries’ bond was an “anchor to peace and prosperity” around the globe.
The Australian premier, who held talks with Biden in the Oval office and will later receive a gala state dinner, said their ties were more important than ever “in today’s uncertain world.”
The visit underscores the importance Washington places on longtime ally Australia as a cornerstone of its strategy against an increasingly assertive Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region.
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 is also set to include 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.
“Mr prime minister, I want to thank you for your partnership, and your friendship quite frankly, during this difficult hour,” Biden told a joint press conference with Albanese in the sun-drenched Rose Garden.
The US president has been grappling with fallout from the Israel-Hamas conflict and the war in Ukraine, and made a statement on the turmoil in the Middle East in which he backed Israel but urged it to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza.
The relationship between the United States and Australia “has been an anchor to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and around the world”, he said, using the allies’s term for the Asia-Pacific region.
Albanese told the news conference that Australia-US ties had “never been more important.”
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.
Biden and Albanese earlier walked a line of servicemen and women in ceremonial dress on the South Lawn, then watched a band of pipers in traditional 18th century military uniforms before giving speeches from the podium.
The US president 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” and thanked Biden for speaking with “moral clarity” about the need to protect civilians.
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, repeating the last phrase for emphasis.
“Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.”