Concern over US Quad devotion after president pulls pin
Washington's commitment to the Pacific could come into question after US President Joe Biden pulled out of the planned Quad summit in Sydney to put out domestic political fires.
Political leaders were quick to play down the cancellation, with the president to return home after the G7 meeting in Japan to continue negotiations with the US Congress about raising the debt ceiling to avoid a default.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the four leaders from Australia, the US, India and Japan would try to meet on the sidelines of the G7 in Hiroshima this weekend, but nothing had been locked in.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute's James Brown said the meeting wouldn't be the same.
"Putting the Quad on the sidelines of the G7 downgrades the Quad," he told Sky News.
"The Quad is a very important and collective arrangement to deter Chinese adventurism to reinforce the mutual interest and values of the four largest democracies in this region."
Mr Brown said presidents were prone to changing their schedules, but it could be seen as a sign of faltering US commitment to the region in the upper echelons of the Chinese Communist Party.
"(It) will open the door for critics, including China, to make the point that the US isn't committed to the region, which is exactly the wrong signal. That's exactly what the Quad is designed to prevent."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's planned visit to Sydney next week is still going ahead. He will join Mr Albanese for a bilateral meeting and engage with local businesses.
Mr Albanese said Mr Biden's visit to Australia would be postponed, adding the president had invited him to the US for a state visit later in the year.
Mr Biden was due to address the Australian parliament in Canberra on Tuesday ahead of the Quad leaders' meeting at the Sydney Opera House on Wednesday.
Mr Albanese said the cancellation of Mr Biden's visit was due to domestic priorities and did not downplay the significance of the Quad.
"President Biden emphasised the importance of the Quad," he said.
"He was very disappointed at some of the actions, obviously, of some members of Congress and in the US Senate.
"Obviously, the domestic priority for the president, understandably, is to play a role in resolving those issues."
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he was working through whether he would still go to Papua New Guinea after the president pulled out of that planned visit.
"We're still waiting to hear who's going to go in his place so we haven't made a final decision," he said.
Mr Hipkins said he understood why the president had to cancel his trip and it did not reflect on Washington's priorities for the region.
"Clearly, he has some relatively important domestic issue that he has to take care of and I think we can all understand that," he said.
"I didn't attend the last Pacific gathering because of the cyclones here in New Zealand. Sometimes things happen, which means you have to reprioritise."
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the president's cancellation was disappointing but understandable.
"There are domestic issues that the president has to attend to and he'd be a welcome guest into our country at any time," he said.
"This was going to be an opportunity on a bipartisan basis to welcome him to our country."