US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is on his way to Brussels on Tuesday to consult with European allies on China and a strategy to increase diplomatic reach to ensure a free and open Asia-Pacific region.
Sherman heads the delegation on the US-EU dialogue on China on Thursday, and the US-EU consultations on the Indo-Pacific on Friday.
Meanwhile, senior US officials are on their way to the Solomon Islands as a security deal between the island nation and China renews concern over Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific.
This week, the White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Region Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will lead Defense Ministry and US International Development Agency officials to Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to deepen “lasting ties” with the region “and ensure that US partnerships” deliver prosperity, security and peace across the Pacific and Indo-Pacific. “
The consequences of a security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China are expected to be high on the agenda. According to a leaked draft of the agreement, China could send armed police and military forces if the Solomon Islands government so requests. China could also be allowed to base its naval ships off the coast of the Pacific nation.
“We understand the Solomon Islands and China [People’s Republic of China] discusses a broad security-related agreement based on the recently signed police cooperation, “Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said during a briefing on Monday. We believe that signing such an agreement could increase destabilization in the Solomon Islands and set a precedent for the wider Pacific island region. “
Australia and New Zealand have had long-standing law enforcement and security relations with the Solomon Islands. An Australian-led multinational peacekeeping force from Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea was sent to Honiara, the island nation’s capital, following the outbreak of riots last November.
One goal of the visit will be to share perspectives and concerns about how the security agreement between Solomon and China could threaten current regional security paradigms, Price added.
Former US officials have said the United States must increase its support for the Asia-Pacific region to ward off China’s growing influence.
In an interview with VOA Mandarin, Catherine Ebert-Gray, the former US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, highlighted the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu strategic location of the Solomon Islands.
“The Solomon Islands is a transit point for a lot of goods moving through the southern Pacific,” she said. “It is also important for the navigation not only of these seagoing vessels, but of aircraft, many of which from Australia and New Zealand must pass through this area to go north to Asia or from the United States to go to parts of the Pacific and parts of Asia. . “
“More than half of the world’s tuna comes from that region of the world. So the freedom to sail for fishing vessels is critical,” she added.
The United States is also increasing people-to-people ties to the Solomon Islands as Peace Corps resumes operations in the South Pacific after a nearly 20-year hiatus.
VOA Mandarin contributed to this report.