With the announcement of the inauguration of new embassies in Tonga and Kiribati at a crucial regional meeting, Vice President Kamala Harris led the United States’ big push into the Pacific on Wednesday in an effort to stave off China’s advancements in the area.
In addition, Washington will name its first-ever envoy to the Pacific, according to Harris, who made the announcement during her speech to the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.
China’s attempts to get a meeting on the sidelines of the summit were rejected, making the United States’ video-link attendance at the summit a diplomatic success for the country.
Since the Solomon Islands’ contentious security treaty with China was struck earlier this year, this forum will be the first time Pacific leaders have come together.
Furthermore, this year’s gathering, which brings together leaders from all around the strategically significant region, has attracted a great deal of attention as a result of the growing US-China competition in the Pacific.
Siaosi Sovaleni, the prime minister of Tonga, told AFP that his nation was “very thrilled” that the US would be opening an embassy there for the first time.
“It marks a significant turning point. We are overjoyed that the US has arrived in Tonga at last “said he.
US vs. China
There was a commotion among organizers since at least one representative from the nearby Chinese embassy was there during the vice president’s speech.
According to Harris, US President Joe Biden and she admitted that the Pacific region may not have previously had enough support or attention.
She stated that the US planned to “substantially deepen our footprint in the Pacific region,” and that “we are going to change that.”
The resumption of the Peace Corps in the Pacific and a decade-long contribution of $60 million yearly to the Forum Fisheries Agency support America’s push in the Pacific, according to Harris, which represented a desire to “embark on a new chapter.”
Additionally, the US will announce its first national plan for the region and choose its first regional envoy.
According to Harris, the US wished to work together on infrastructure, disaster assistance, and maritime security initiatives that “do not result in insurmountable debt.”
Expert on the Pacific Tess Cain told AFP that considering that the meeting is typically only open to Pacific leaders, Australia, and New Zealand, “it was a bit of a surprise that the vice president got that speaking slot.”
It might come as a surprise, according to Cain, that the vice president and not the president spoke with leaders this morning.
– Arrival of Australia –
Anthony Albanese, the newly elected Australian prime minister, arrived in Fiji on Wednesday for the forum. This was his first trip to the Pacific since his election victory.
Albanese will work to restore his country’s strained ties with the Pacific after Australia’s attempts to stop climate change statements caused a meltdown at the previous forum gathering that included yelling and sobbing.
When he arrived at the airport, he stated, “I look forward to discussing the concerns and dealing with climate change.
However, the US-China conflict and the surprise withdrawal from the forum by Kiribati’s Beijing-aligned leaders on the eve of the summit have threatened to undermine the conference’s atmosphere.
Simon Kofe, the foreign minister of Tuvalu, told AFP that it was “the Pacific’s job to underscore the importance of climate change.”
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