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US foreign policy

Top US diplomats head to Solomon Islands amid China worries

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Top US diplomats will head to the Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island nations this week, the White House said Monday amid concerns over China’s diplomatic and military inroads in the strategic region.

National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will lead the delegation, NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

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They will visit the US state of Hawaii, and also Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Joining the trip will be representatives from the White House’s NSC, the State Department, the Pentagon and the US Agency for International Development, seeking “to further deepen our enduring ties with the region and to advance a free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” Watson said.

The stop at the Solomon Islands will be particularly closely watched amid worries in the United States and close ally Australia over the small nation’s recent security deal with China.

Although details remain fluid, a leaked draft of the pact sparked fears in Canberra and Washington that it would give China a new military foothold in the Pacific, including naval deployments to the islands.

Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has since said that the Solomon Islands does not intend to allow China to build a military base.
According to the NSC statement, the US delegation will use the stops in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to “meet with senior government officials to ensure our partnerships deliver prosperity, security, and peace across the Pacific Islands and the Indo-Pacific.

“They will also meet with representatives of the Pacific Islands Forum, a critical driver of regional action, to discuss issues of importance to the Pacific as a whole.”

While in Hawaii, the delegation will meet senior US military officials and regional partners at US Indo-Pacific Command.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled through the region in February to highlight Washington’s commitment, as it crafts a long-term strategy to contain an increasingly ambitious China.

Read more: US aims to counter China by opening Solomon Islands embassy

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