Why is Biden inviting Pacific Island leaders to Washington for a summit?

Why is Biden inviting Pacific Island leaders to Washington for a summit?
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden walks from the Oval Office to Marine One for a trip to Pennsylvania, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 30, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo

The South Pacific region isn’t usually on the radar of Western leaders. But as China has grown closer to the region, signing a security deal with the Solomon Islands back in April, worry started to loom in the West. In fact, the US and Australia sent officials to the region to try to convince the Islands to scrap the deal, but they failed. For the West, the concern is that China can use the deal to increase its military influence in the region, something that the tiny country’s leader denies and says he finds “very insulting."

So since then, the US has tried to strengthen its ties in the region. In July, Vice President Kamala Harris announced new embassies in Tonga, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, plus US$900,000 in funding. And Biden announced that it would host its first-ever US- Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington later this month, where leaders from the Pacific Islands will talk about topics like climate change and economy and recovery.

Key comments:

“The Summit will demonstrate the United States’ deep and enduring partnership with Pacific Island countries and the Pacific region that is underpinned by shared history, values, and people-to-people ties. The Summit will reflect our broadening and deepening cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection, and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific," said US Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in an official statement.

We find it very insulting to be branded as unfit to manage our sovereign affairs, or [to] have other motives in pursuing our national interests," said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. “I would like to make it abundantly clear that Solomon Islands’ security agreement with Australia remains in place and intact," he added.