The US is sending a delegation to the Solomon Islands next week that will be led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as Washington is looking to gain more influence in the Pacific region to counter China.
According to The Associated Press, the State Department said the trip is meant to “highlight the enduring relationship” between the US and the Solomon Islands and to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The US and its allies in the region have been unhappy that the Solomon Islands recently signed a security pact with China that focuses on law enforcement cooperation. The Solomon Islands have repeatedly denied claims from Australia that the agreement will allow Beijing to establish a military base in the Pacific island nation, which Canberra calls its “backyard.”
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, recently took her new post as the US ambassador to Australia and will be joining Sherman on the trip. Kennedy said that the US needs to expand its role in the Pacific region. “I think the US needs to do more,” she said.
Back in February, the US announced it was reopening its embassy in the Solomon Islands, which was shuttered in 1993. Vice President Kamala Harris recently announced that the US is opening more embassies in the region and will be increasing aid to Pacific island nations.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration released its Indo-Pacific Strategy, which called for a greater US military and diplomatic presence in the region to work against China. “We’re putting our embassies back in and the Peace Corps is coming, and USAID is coming back and we’re coming back,” Kennedy said.
Recently released emails from USAID revealed that agency officials working in the Pacific region were concerned about the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, calling it “very troubling.” US officials were also unhappy with the Solomon Islands back in 2019 when the nation severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan to open up with China.