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Pacific News Minute: US to open embassy in Solomon Islands to counter China's growing influence

Anthony Blinken Secretary of State
Susan Walsh/AP
AP Pool
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

The United States says it will open an embassy in the Solomon Islands to counter China's growing influence in the South Pacific nation.

The reasons for a new U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands were explained in a State Department memo to Congress.

The plan was confirmed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his recent trip to the Indo-Pacific.

The State Department said Solomon Islanders respect their history with Americans on the battlefields of World War II.

But China is reaching out to deepen current connections with elite politicians and business people in the Solomons—and the U.S. didn’t want to be left behind.

The move comes after riots shook the nation of 700,000 people in November.

The violence grew from a peaceful protest about the country’s increasing links with China — as rioters set fire to buildings and looted stores.

In 2019, the Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

The U.S. previously operated an embassy in the Solomons for five years before closing it in 1993.

The State Department said it didn't expect to build a new embassy immediately, but would at first lease space at an initial cost of $12.4 million.

The embassy would be located in the capital of Honiara and would start small, with two U.S. employees and about five local staff.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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