Joe Biden's Australia visit in doubt as Assange supporters rally

US debt ceiling crisis threatens to derail President's trip Downunder as pressure builds to free incarcerated Australian journalist Julian Assange.

Joe Biden's Australia visit in doubt as Assange supporters rally
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President Joe Biden's upcoming visit to Australia hangs in the balance as the United States government grapples with the unresolved debt ceiling crisis, with reports suggesting possible cancellation

Biden is set to attend the Quad Leaders' Summit in Sydney on May 24 alongside Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida of India and Japan.

Supporters of imprisoned Wikileaks founder Julian Assange plan to rally in Sydney during the summit, aiming to convey the message that "journalism is not a crime" while Assange remains detained in London's high-security Belmarsh Prison.

However, the trip to Australia is now uncertain as Republican and Democratic lawmakers struggle to reach an agreement to raise the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.

The Treasury has warned that the government could default as soon as June 1, which could result in severe economic consequences if no deal is reached.

If the visit proceeds, it will be Biden's first trip to Australia since assuming the presidency with the trip confirmed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last month.

Biden has expressed his commitment to the visit but acknowledges that the debt ceiling issue takes precedence on his agenda.

When asked if he may have to remain in Washington to oversee negotiations, Biden confirmed it as a possibility, but not a likely one. He stated that if the deadline approached during his scheduled visit, he would not go and would stay until the debt ceiling issue is resolved.

Before his potential visit to Canberra and Sydney, Biden is scheduled to attend the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, from May 19 to 21.

In the meantime, a bipartisan group of Australian politicians met with US ambassador Caroline Kennedy to pressure the Biden administration to cease pursuing Assange and warn that his ongoing imprisonment could jeopardise the US-Australia alliance.

Assange's supporters were encouraged by Kennedy's decision to hold the meeting and are cautiously optimistic about a potential breakthrough in Assange's case.

The critical meeting comes after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton shifted his stance on Assange's case.

Kennedy welcomed members of the Parliamentary Friends of Julian Assange Group at the US embassy in Canberra for a working breakfast to discuss the matter.

Members of the delegation emphasised that, despite their differing political opinions, they all agreed that the case against Assange has persisted for too long, and he should be allowed to return to Australia.

MP Andrew Wilkie expressed hope that the meeting signalled the Biden administration's interest in a "fresh start" regarding Assange's case.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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