US Cook Islands, Niue Embassy 09/24 07:22
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is set to announce the opening of new
U.S. embassies on Cook Islands and Niue on Monday as the Democratic
administration aims to demonstrate to Pacific Island leaders that it remains
committed to increasing American presence in the region.
The announcement about the new diplomatic missions in the South Pacific
comes as Biden prepares to welcome leaders to Washington for the two-day
U.S.-Pacific Island Forum Summit. Talks are expected to heavily focus on the
impact of climate change in the region.
Biden has put a premium on improving relations in the Pacific amid rising
U.S. concern about China's growing military and economic influence. Plans about
the embassies were confirmed by two senior administration officials who briefed
reporters on the condition of anonymity before the formal announcement.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden would use the
summit to strengthen "ties with the Pacific Islands and discuss how we address
complex global challenges, like tackling the existential threat of climate
change, advancing economic growth, and promoting sustainable development."
The leaders were scheduled to be feted on Sunday at a Baltimore Ravens
football game and to visit a Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore Harbor for a
briefing by the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on combatting illegal
fishing and other maritime issues.
Pacific Island leaders have been critical of rich countries for not doing
enough to control climate change despite being responsible for much of the
problem, and for profiting from loans provided to vulnerable nations to
mitigate the effects.
At last year's summit, the White House unveiled its Pacific strategy, an
outline of its plan to assist the region's leaders on pressing issues like
climate change, maritime security and protecting the region from overfishing.
The administration pledged the U.S. would add $810 million in new aid for
Pacific Island nations over the next decade, including $130 million on efforts
to stymie the impacts of climate change.
The forum includes Australia, Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French
Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New
Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu,
Biden will welcome the leaders to the White House on Monday morning for
talks and a working lunch. They also will meet on Monday with Biden's special
envoy on climate, John Kerry, for talks focused on climate change. Secretary of
State Antony Blinken and U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will host the
leaders at the State Department for a dinner.
Kerry and USAID administrator Samantha Power will host the leaders on
Tuesday for climate talks with members of the philanthropic community. The
leaders also are slated to meet with members of Congress and Treasury Secretary
Janet Yellen is to host a roundtable with the leaders and members of the
Power last month travelled to Fiji to open a new USAID mission that will
manage agency programs in nine Pacific Island countries: Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru,
Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of
Micronesia, and Palau. The U.S. this year has opened embassies in Solomon
Islands and Tonga, and is on track to open an embassy in Vanuatu early next
The White House said most members of the 18-member forum were dispatching
their top elected official or foreign minister to the summit.
But the administration was "very disappointed" that Solomon Islands Prime
Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who was in New York last week for the U.N. General
Assembly, opted not to stick around for the White House summit, according to an
administration official. The Solomon Islands last year signed a security pact
Prime Minister Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu of Vanuatu also is expected to
miss the summit. He was elected by lawmakers earlier this month to replace
Ishmael Kalsakau, who lost a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Biden earlier this year had to cut short a planned visit to the
Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a historic stop in Papua New Guinea, as
well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the
so-called Quad partnership so he could focus on debt limit talks in Washington.
He would have been the first sitting U.S. president to visit Papua new Guinea.
The U.S. president is set to honor Australian Prime Minister Anthony
Albanese with a state visit next month.