The announcement comes as US President Joe Biden prepares to host a second summit with Pacific Island leaders in Washington DC.
Joe Biden, the president of the United States, will announce the opening of new embassies in the Cook Islands and Niue as part of a charm offensive to block Chinese advances in the South Pacific.
The announcement of the new diplomatic missions came Sunday as Biden prepared to welcome Pacific Island leaders to a two-day U.S. Pacific Islands Forum summit in Washington, DC.
The discussions are expected to focus heavily on the impacts of climate change in the region.
Amid increasing U.S. concerns about China’s growing military and economic influence, Biden is placing great emphasis on improving relations in the Pacific. Plans regarding the embassies were confirmed by two senior administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would use the summit to “strengthen relations with the Pacific Islands and discuss how we address complex global challenges, such as addressing the existential threat of climate change.” Promoting economic growth and promoting sustainable development”.
The leaders were scheduled to be feted Sunday at a Baltimore Ravens football game and visit a Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore Harbor for a briefing from the U.S. Coast Guard commander on combating illegal fishing and other maritime problems.
Pacific island leaders criticize rich countries for not doing enough to curb climate change, despite being responsible for much of the problem, and for benefiting from loans given to vulnerable countries to mitigate the effects to mitigate.
At last year’s summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific Strategy, an overview of its plan to support the region’s leaders on pressing issues such as climate change, maritime security and protecting the region from overfishing. It promised that the U.S. would provide $810 million in new aid to Pacific island nations over the next decade, including $130 million for efforts to curb the effects of climate change.
Meg Keen, director of Pacific Island programs at Australia’s Lowy Institute, said that while the U.S. has opened new embassies and USAID offices in the region since last year’s summit, Congress has not yet approved the funding.
She added that Pacific island nations “welcome renewed U.S. engagement in the region but do not want geopolitical disputes to lead to an escalation of militarization.”
The Pacific Islands Forum includes Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The White House said most members of the 18-member forum would send their top elected official or secretary of state to the summit.
However, according to an official, the government was “very disappointed” that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly last week, decided not to attend the summit at the White House.
The Solomon Islands signed a security agreement with China last year.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu is also expected to miss the summit. He was elected by lawmakers earlier this month to replace Ishmael Kalsakau, who lost a no-confidence vote in parliament over, among other things, signing a security deal with U.S. ally Australia.
The US is still negotiating to open an embassy in Vanuatu but has not significantly expanded its engagement with the country, which counts China as its largest external creditor. China sent police experts to Vanuatu last month and signed a police agreement.
U.S. efforts to deepen engagement in the Pacific islands this year also include opening embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga and renewing agreements with Palau and Micronesia that give them exclusive military access to strategic parts of the Pacific.
The U.S. has not yet renewed a similar agreement with the Marshall Islands, which wants more money to deal with the legacy of large-scale U.S. nuclear testing in the 1940s and ’50s.
A Biden administration official said he was confident of reaching a deal with the Marshall Islands.
Source : www.aljazeera.com