The United States is pledging more diplomatic and financial support to the Pacific region in the face of growing influence from China.
Vice President Kamala Harris made the pledge Wednesday in a video address to the Pacific Islands Forum being held in Suva, Fiji. Vice President Harris said the U.S. is planning to appoint an envoy to the Forum and open new embassies in Tonga and Kiribati.
Harris also said the administration of President Joe Biden has requested $60 million a year from the U.S. Congress that would triple current funding for fisheries assistance, marine conservation and climate resilience projects.
The vice president acknowledged “that in recent years the Pacific islands may not have received the diplomatic attention and support that you deserve” from the United States. “So today I am here to tell you directly, we are going to change that.”
The Forum is being held just three months after China and the Solomon Islands signed a security pact that has raised concerns in Australia and the United States that Beijing would establish a military presence in the Solomon Islands, located less than 2,000 kilometers from Australia. A draft of the agreement that emerged on social media included a provision that could allow Beijing to send armed police and soldiers to the Solomons, as well as base its navy ships off the Solomons coast.
Climate change, which the Forum considers the region’s major security issue, is top of the agenda for this week’s gathering. But it has been overshadowed by the surprise withdrawal earlier this week by Kiribati.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.