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President Joe Biden is pressing forward with this week’s state visit from Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, carving out time to nurture the relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Pacific against the backdrop of escalating fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The state visit, only the fourth since Biden took office, is a reminder of how he’s pursuing long-term plans to counter China’s influence even as bloody conflicts in the Middle East and Europe, where the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues after almost two years, remain the most immediate concerns.

Senior administration officials said Biden and Albanese would be focused on innovative partnerships intended to support economic development among Pacific island nations, a key arena as the U.S. seeks the upper hand in the region.