British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets with New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, in London
New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media, after his meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street in London, Britain May 5, 2023. Reuters

New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins will head to Papua New Guinea on May 21 to attend the United States-Pacific Summit, his office said in a statement on Thursday.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet leaders of 18 Pacific countries and territories including Hipkins, who have been invited to participate in the summit.

A White House spokesman has said the summit will be an opportunity for leaders to discuss ways to deepen cooperation on challenges critical to the region and to the United States such as combating climate change, protecting maritime resources, and advancing resilient and inclusive economic growth.

This will be Hipkin's first visit to Papua New Guinea and into the Pacific region since becoming leader in January and also his first in-person meeting with Biden.

Papua New Guinea is being courted by China and by the United States and its allies and friends, as Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister James Marape seeks to boost foreign investment. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited in 2018.

Last year, New Zealand joined with the United States, Australia and Japan to create an informal group aimed at boosting economic and diplomatic ties with Pacific island nations.