‘Symbol of renewal’: US reopens Solomon Islands embassy

The US has been stepping up engagement with the Pacific amid concerns about China’s influence in the region.

Aerial view of Honiara, showing the sea in the distance.
China and the US are vying for influence in the Pacific [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

The United States has announced it re-opened its embassy in the Solomon Islands last month, 30 years after it was closed.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the embassy opened its doors in Honiara on January 27, less than a year after Washington announced the plan.

“[The opening] symbolizes a renewal of our relationship and underlines the strength of our commitment to our bilateral relations, the people of Solomon Islands, and our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region,” Blinken said in a statement on Thursday.

The US closed its embassy in Honiara in 1993 amid shifting diplomatic priorities.

It announced its intention to reopen the diplomatic mission after it emerged in April 2022 that the Solomon Islands had agreed to a secret security pact with China. The Solomon Islands had switched diplomatic ties to Beijing from self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, in 2019, a move swiftly followed by Kiribati.

“The opening of the embassy builds on our efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors,” Blinken said.

US diplomat Russell Corneau, who has been in the Solomon Islands since October 2021, will continue as the US’s diplomatic representative in the new embassy, the statement added.

Last year, the US convened its first-ever summit of Pacific leaders at the White House, in which the parties committed to economic and infrastructure development, strengthening regional cooperation – with the US promising to deepen ties with the Pacific Islands Forum – maritime security and “the sustainable use of the Pacific Ocean based on the rule of law”.

Of particular concern to the Pacific Islands, which risk being submerged beneath rising seas, was an explicit commitment to tackling climate change.

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Source: Al Jazeera