Top US diplomats to visit Solomon Islands amid China worries
Following China's security deal with the Solomon Islands, US diplomats are set to visit the islands.
Top US diplomats will head to the Solomon Islands and other Pacific island nations this week, the White House confirmed Monday amid concerns over China's diplomatic and security ties with the strategic region.
National Security Council (NSC) Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will lead the delegation, NSC Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
They will visit the US state of Hawaii, and also Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
Joining the trip will be representatives from the White House's NSC, the State Department, the Pentagon, and the US Agency for International Development, seeking "to further deepen our enduring ties with the region and to advance a free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific," Watson said.
The stop at the Solomon Islands will be particularly closely watched amid worries in the United States and close ally Australia over the nation's recent security deal with China.
Although details remain fluid, an alleged leaked draft of the pact sparked fears in Canberra and Washington that it would give China a new military foothold in the Pacific, including naval deployments to the islands.
Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has since said the Solomon Islands does not intend to allow China to build a military base.
According to the NSC statement, the US delegation will use the stops in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to "meet with senior government officials to ensure our partnerships deliver prosperity, security, and peace across the Pacific Islands and the Indo-Pacific."
"They will also meet with representatives of the Pacific Islands Forum, a critical driver of regional action, to discuss issues of importance to the Pacific as a whole," the statement read.
While in Hawaii, the delegation will meet senior US military officials and regional partners at the US Indo-Pacific Command.