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Biden wraps up a second day at the G-7 meet in Hiroshima, Japan


The G-7 summit of leaders from the world's biggest democracies is meeting in Hiroshima. So far, they've focused on Russia's war on Ukraine. President Biden and other leaders are opening the door to providing fighter jets to Ukraine. And after much intrigue, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy arrived in Hiroshima today to attend the summit in person. And while debt ceiling talks in Washington, D.C., stumbled, President Biden has weighed in. NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow joins us from Hiroshima. Scott, thanks for being with us.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good evening, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thank you. There were - that's right. It's evening there. Morning here, my friend. Volodymyr Zelenskyy's trip to Japan - brooded about, reported online, but now he's actually there, I gather.

DETROW: He is. He arrived today. And this comes right in the middle of an extended charm offensive from Zelenskyy, which is coming ahead of what we expect will be a major military offensive from Ukraine. Zelenskyy, remember, had not left the country much, for obvious reasons, for much of the first year of the war. Then he had that dramatic trip to Washington at the end of last year. And more recently, Zelenskyy has been visiting heads of government in several countries to pressure them to keep supporting Ukraine as military costs keep going up and as the war keeps dragging on. The trip to the G-7 comes immediately after Zelenskyy made a similar case to the Arab League in Saudi Arabia the other day. We do not know much about his exact agenda here in Hiroshima, though the White House is indicating he will almost certainly have a one-on-one meeting with President Biden on Sunday.

SIMON: And I gather there's a major welcoming gift in the offing. President Biden now indicates that he would support Ukraine acquiring F-16 fighter jets from Western countries. That's a change, isn't it?

DETROW: And it's a much larger gift than they had in the gift bags for the reporters covering this summit.

SIMON: (Laughter).

DETROW: I mean, look - but on a serious note, this is a huge escalation in how the U.S. and its allies are arming Ukraine. Ukraine had been begging for these jets for more than a year. Biden resisted. He was worried that this could be something that would lead Russia to broaden the war and perhaps retaliate against other countries. But now, this week, Biden has told other G-7 leaders the U.S. will support efforts to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and begin conversations about how to get F-16s from other countries to Ukraine.

And at a briefing today, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. has adjusted its position based on how Russia has waged its war and how Ukraine has responded. He also told us that as the U.S. has increased the magnitude of the weapons it's providing, one key thing has been getting promises from Ukraine that it will not use them to attack inside Russia. And he indicated that that promise would be key when it comes to these F-16s.

SIMON: Of course, back at home, the president faces this growing crisis over the debt ceiling. He apologized to Australia's prime minister for having to cancel his planned visit there next week to get home sooner to deal with whatever's going on.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And again, I truly apologize to you for having you to come here rather than me being in Australia right now. But we have a little thing going on at home I got to pay attention to.

SIMON: Because in Washington, D.C., negotiations briefly stopped yesterday. They've resumed. What's the White House say, Scott?

DETROW: There were pretty mixed messages today, which was interesting. Right after that brief pause in negotiations, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, look - there are big differences. The talks may get difficult, but the White House is confident they can find an agreement. Then a few hours later, communications director Ben LaBolt issued a statement really blasting House Republicans, implying they are negotiating in bad faith. And then after that, President Biden was asked about this, and he said he is confident the U.S. will not default, and he indicated he thought negotiations were going pretty normally.


BIDEN: This goes in stages. I've been in these negotiations before.

DETROW: Biden said he still believes the U.S. will avoid default, and he will be back late Sunday to rejoin talks in person. And one observation I had on this - the White House is doing a very strange dance here of continuing to insist it is not in negotiations over the debt ceiling, even as it negotiates over the debt ceiling. I mean, they're negotiating the budget here. But if the White House can't strike a deal to get the Republican-controlled House to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. will run out of money and default on its debt.

SIMON: NPR's Scott Detrow in Hiroshima. Thanks so much, Scott.

DETROW: And, Scott, I have bad news. The Toyo Carp lost today, 1-0.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh - my favorite team. Who beat them? Do you know?

DETROW: The Hanshin Tigers.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. All right. Thank you.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.