US opens embassy in Solomon Islands after 30-year absence to counter China | Solomon Islands

US opens embassy in Solomon Islands after 30-year absence to counter China | Solomon Islands

The United States has opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands after a 30-year absence to strengthen diplomatic ties in the Pacific counterbalance to China.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the news late Wednesday, saying that “more than any other part of the world, the Indo-Pacific region – including the Pacific Islands – will shape how the world develops in the 21st century.”

The top US diplomat announced plans to open a diplomatic mission in the Pacific island nation during a visit to the region last year, with the State Department intending to expand engagement and deepen international cooperation with the Solomon Islands.

The last US embassy in the Solomon Islands was closed in 1993 due to post-Cold War budget cuts, and the US was represented there by an ambassador based in Papua New Guinea.

In a statement Wednesday, Blinken said the foreign ministry had informed the Solomon Islands government that the opening of the new embassy in the capital, Honiara, became official on Jan. 27.

Last February I announced that the United States would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands. Now that promise is a reality. The United States is a Pacific country, and we are taking another important step forward to help deliver for our citizens and the region we share.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 1, 2023

He said the US is committed to working to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region is “free and open” and an “environment in which democracy can thrive.”

“The embassy’s opening builds on our efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel across the region, but also to continue working with our Pacific neighbors, connecting United States programs and resources to local needs, and building people to people.” Ties,” said Blinken.

The US move comes amid concerns from Washington and its allies over Beijing’s military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region after it struck a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year.

Officials at the opening of the US Embassy in Honiara. Photo: Charley Piringi/The Guardian

In September, US President Joe Biden hosted Pacific island leaders at a summit in Washington, where he pledged to stave off China’s “economic coercion” and pledged to work harder with allies and partners to meet the needs of islanders.

A joint statement between Washington and 14 Pacific Island nations decided to strengthen their partnership and shared a vision of a region where “democracy can thrive.”

Supporters of the document included Solomonic Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, whose government previously indicated it would not sign it, raising concerns about its links with China.

On Wednesday, US embassy chargé d’affaires Russell Comeau said the opening was “a first step that will accelerate the process of establishing permanent facilities and deploying additional diplomatic personnel.”

The message “stands as an enduring symbol of our commitment to the country and region,” he said, and the US would work with Solomon Islands “on the basis of shared values ​​of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Welcoming the US embassy, ​​Solomon Islands State Department Permanent Secretary Collin Beck said it renews the partnership between the two countries and “most importantly, our shared history and shared values.”

Collin Beck (right) and Russell Comeau (center) among officials at the US Embassy opening. Photo: Charley Piringi/The Guardian

On Monday, the remote atoll nation of Kiribati announced it would rejoin the Pacific Islands Forum, ending a schism that had threatened unity at a time of rising superpower tensions in the strategically located region.

Kiribati shifted diplomatic recognition from self-governing but Chinese-claimed Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, as did the Solomon Islands.

The reopening of the embassy in Solomon Islands comes as Washington negotiated extensions of cooperation agreements with three key Pacific island nations, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

Under the Free Association Accords (Cofa), first agreed in the 1980s, Washington retains responsibility for defending the islands and exclusive access to vast swathes of the Pacific.

Washington said it signed MoUs with the Marshall Islands and Palau last month, reaching consensus with them on the terms of future U.S. economic aid, but gave no details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *