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Luisa Vieira

The US-China fallout from Biden’s PNG no-show

On Monday, Joe Biden was scheduled to make a historic stopover in Papua New Guinea coming from the G-7 summit in Japan and on his way to the Quad huddle in Australia. It would have been the first visit by a sitting US president to a country that often flies under the radar yet has immense geopolitical significance.

But Biden decided to cut short his trip and return stateside after the G-7 to negotiate a debt ceiling deal with Republicans in Congress. This did not go down well in PNG.

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A protester holds a portrait of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont during a protest in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

What We're Watching: Catalan separatist off the hook, Biden's special counsel, Oz-PNG deal, Czech election, nukes for South Korea?

Spanish justice gives up on Catalan fugitive

After trying for more than five years to bring fugitive ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to trial for sedition, on Thursday a Spanish judge threw in the towel and dropped the charge. Why? The left-wing government of PM Pedro Sánchez has watered down the crime of sedition so much that it no longer covers what Puigdemont did in Oct. 2017: declare Catalonia an independent republic before skipping town when he was about to get arrested. And why did Sánchez tweak the law? Because he needs the votes of Catalan separatist parties in the national parliament to stay in power (which also explains why he pardoned the other politicians who tried to secede along with Puigdemont.) The judge's decision has big political implications in an election year. On the one hand, it's vindication for the Catalan independence movement, which has been losing steam since its failed secession bid. But on the other, it's a poison pill for Sánchez, whom the the Spanish right has long accused of pandering to Catalan separatists. The PM will get a sense of what Spanish voters think of his Catalonia policy in local and regional elections in late May, a dress rehearsal for a general vote in December.

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Paige Fusco

US-China competition expands to the Pacific Islands

Alarmed by China’s progress in extending its influence among a series of strategically located islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this week President Joe Biden is hosting the first-ever US-Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington, DC. The White House has invited the leaders of 12 Pacific nations to discuss climate change, economic cooperation, and security ties. We asked Eurasia Group expert Peter Mumford to explain the importance of the event.

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