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Pacific News Minute: US to open new embassy in Vanuatu

A Dec. 07, 2019, aerial view of the coastline of Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
FILE: A Dec. 07, 2019, aerial view of the coastline of Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.

The United States is opening a new embassy in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. It’s the U.S. government’s latest move to boost its presence and counter China's influence in the Pacific.

The U.S. currently maintains diplomatic relations with the government of Vanuatu but does not have an embassy in the South Pacific nation.

"A permanent diplomatic presence in Vanuatu would allow the U.S. government to deepen relationships with (its) officials and society," the state department said in a statement.

The Pacific Island Times reported that a diplomatic agent in the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, is also assigned to Vanuatu and regularly travels there.

The department said establishing a U.S. Embassy in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila would "facilitate areas of potential bilateral cooperation and development assistance, including efforts to tackle the climate crisis."

Vanuatu, which is made up of about 80 islands that stretch 800 miles, is one of several nations in the region that have diplomatic relations with China.

Washington has also announced plans to open embassies in Kiribati and Tonga.

The U.S. embassy in the Solomon Islands opened in February —following the country's security agreement with China last year.

The U.S. is also seeking to strengthen its relationship with the Cook Islands, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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