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Pacific News Minute: U.S. opening embassy in Solomon Islands reassures allies

Solomon Islands US Embassy
U.S. Embassy Honiara
In this photo provided by the U.S. Embassy Honiara, Taylor Ruggles, director for the East Asia and the Pacific region of the U.S. State Department, from left, Colin Beck, permanent secretary of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, and Russell Comeau, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy Honiara, attend an flag raising ceremony to celebrate the opening of the embassy in Honiara of the Solomon Islands, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.

The United States now has an embassy open for business in the Solomon Islands. The facility opened last week, in the latest move by the U.S. government to counter China's push into the Pacific.

The embassy in the capital of Honiara is starting small.

It has one diplomat, a couple of State department workers and a handful of local employees.

The U.S. previously operated an embassy in the Solomon Islands for five years before closing it in 1993. That move was part of a global reduction in diplomatic posts after the end of the Cold War.

The Associated Press reported that China's recent moves in the region have the U.S. looking to increase its commitment in several ways. It has donated COVID-19 vaccines, brought back Peace Corps volunteers to several island nations, and invested in forestry and tourism projects.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the opening of the embassy “builds on efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors.”

The State Department told lawmakers last year that China's growing influence in the region made reopening the Solomon Islands embassy a priority.

Since then, the Solomons agreed to a security pact with the country, raising fears of a military buildup in the region.

Meanwhile, Fiji's new leader, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, seems to be re-examining his nation's relationship with China.

Rabuka recently told The Fiji Times he plans to end a police training and exchange agreement with China.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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