US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with the media. File photo
Gulf Today Report
China is seeking to establish military relationships in the Pacific, a senior US administration official said on Saturday, as Washington promised more diplomatic and security resources for the region, including an embassy in the Solomon Islands.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to announce the opening of a new embassy on the Pacific island state during a visit to nearby Fiji — 29 years after the United States downgraded its diplomatic presence in Honiara.
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The move comes just a few months after riots in the island chain of 800,000 people in November when protesters tried to storm parliament and then went on a three-day rampage, torching much of the capital Honiara's Chinatown.
The unrest was sparked by opposition to veteran Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and partly fuelled by poverty, unemployment and inter-island rivalries, but anti-China sentiment also played a role.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare walks during a welcome ceremony in Beijing. File/AP
The United States closed its embassy in the Solomons Island capital in 1993 and is now represented by a consulate there, with an embassy in the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby.
While in the Fijian city of Nadi, Blinken will hold a virtual meeting with leaders from around 18 Pacific island states as Washington seeks to up its diplomatic and security game in the region to blunt a push by China for a stronger presence of its own.
According to US officials, China has made a particular push to gain influence and a presence in a number of island countries in the region.
With 276 posts globally, China has for the first time surpassed the United States' network by three posts.
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The security pact, which China and the Solomons confirmed last week, has also alarmed neighboring countries and Western allies, including Japan, that fear a military buildup in the region.
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