Elizabeth Boyle, Staff
Header Image: YourBigSky
On Feb. 12, during a tour starting in Australia and ending in Fiji, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the U.S. will open an embassy in the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands are located in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. Blinken explained the reason for this new embassy is to increase the U.S. presence in the South Pacific Ocean as China becomes “strongly embedded.” The State Department said that, although the United States and the Solomon Islands have a good history dating back to World War II, China is “aggressively seek[ing] to engage” with the businessmen and politicians in the Solomon Islands. China is allegedly making promises concerning infrastructure loans and debt levels while trying to strike business deals in the Solomon Islands.
While Blinken talked about the embassy “enhancing the political, economic and commercial relationship” within the islands, setting up an embassy there will be quite pricey. It is estimated the initial setup will cost $12.4 million. The embassy will be located in the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara. The first steps of the process would be leasing the space for the embassy and having two U.S. employees and five local personnel to staff the embassy. To further increase U.S. presence in the Solomon Islands, the State Department talked about the Peace Corps reopening their office and moving volunteers back to the Solomon Islands.
While in Fiji, Blinken spoke with the Fijian acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and other Pacific leaders. This was the first visit of the U.S. Secretary of State to Fiji in 36 years. The topics of their meeting included the potential threat of China, climate change and rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Sayed-Khaiyum welcomed Blinken, “Mr. Secretary, your being here shows that promise was more than words. We have just held the most historic and comprehensive meeting ever between Fiji and the U.S.A. and a wider meeting with our fellow Pacific leaders. We believe that both mark the start of more direct partnership between Fiji and the U.S.A., and a new era for America in the blue frontier of the Pacific.” He expressed that the islands in this Pacific region felt very left out and overlooked by the major countries. He said he felt the islands were, “small dots spotted from plane windows of leaders en route to meetings where they spoke about us rather than with us, if they spoke of us at all.”
Blinken met with leaders from Australia, India, Fiji and Japan. These four nations form a group of Indo-Pacific democracies called “The Quad” created to counter the influence of China. Blinken shows support for The Quad by saying, “You can see the strength of that commitment to the Indo-Pacific throughout the past year. Just look at some of the key markers on our calendar, from President Biden being the first U.S. president to address the Pacific Islands Forum to our increasing engagement with The Quad, whose ministers I just met with in Melbourne, to deepening our cooperation on a range of security and defense priorities through AUKUS.”
As the U.S. increases ties in the Pacific, China continues to try to increase political and military ties in the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands sent shockwaves through the South Pacific regions when they decided to pull their support from Taiwan and support China in 2019. This essentially started a divide within the country that continued through Dec. 2021 when Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare survived a no-confidence motion against him in parliament.