US reopens Solomon Islands embassy amid movements to fight China | News
US reopens Solomon Islands embassy amid movements to fight China |  News

US reopens Solomon Islands embassy amid movements to fight China | News

Washington promises more diplomatic and security resources to the South Pacific as China’s influence grows.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has confirmed that the US is planning to open an embassy in the South Pacific, Solomon Islands, in an attempt to counter China’s influence on the politically turbulent Pacific islands.

The announcement on Saturday comes as Blinken visits Fiji for talks with Pacific Island leaders, where Washington promises more diplomatic and security resources to the region.

In a statement to Congress, the State Department said Salomon Islanders loved their history with Americans on the battlefields of World War II, but that the United States was in danger of losing its preferential ties as China “aggressively seeks to engage” elite politicians and businessmen in the Solomon Islands.

The move comes afterwards riots shaken nation of 700,000 in November. The riots grew out of a peaceful protest, highlighting protracted regional rivalry, economic problems and concerns about the country’s rising relations with China. Rebels set fire to buildings and looted shops.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare survived one vote of no confidence the following month, and told lawmakers in a burning 90-minute speech that he had done nothing wrong and would not bow to the “forces of evil” or to “Taiwan’s agents.”

The United States previously operated an embassy in the Solomon Islands for five years before closing it in 1993. Since then, U.S. diplomats from neighboring Papua New Guinea have been accredited to the Solomon Islands, which has a U.S. consular agency.

The embassy’s announcement fits with a new Biden administration strategy for the Indo-Pacific, announced last Friday, and underscores the building of partnerships with allies in the region as a way to counter China’s growing influence and ambitions.

The State Department said China had “used a familiar pattern of extravagant promises, potentially expensive infrastructure loans and potentially dangerous debt levels” when in dialogue with Solomon Islands political and business leaders.

“The United States has a strategic interest in strengthening our political, economic, and commercial relations with the Solomon Islands, the largest Pacific island nation without a U.S. embassy,” the State Department wrote.

The State Department said it did not expect to build a new embassy immediately, but would initially rent space at an initial establishment price of $ 12.4 million. The embassy would be located in the capital, Honiara, and would start small, with two U.S. employees and about five local employees.

The State Department said the Peace Corps was planning to reopen an office in the Solomon Islands and get its volunteers to serve there, and that several U.S. agencies were establishing government positions with portfolios in the Solomon Islands.

“The department needs to be a part of this increased American presence instead of remaining a remote player,” it wrote.

Blinken arrived in Fiji on Saturday after visiting the Australian city of Melbourne, where he had a meeting with his colleagues from Australia, India and Japan.

The four nations form the so-called “Quad”, a bloc of Indo-Pacific democracies created to counter China’s regional influence.

In Fiji, Blinken plans to meet with Pacific Island leaders to discuss the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic and disaster relief. It was the first visit by a US Secretary of State to Fiji since 1985.

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