Biden to host White House Pacific Island summit in September, in bid to counter Chinese influence in region
- The decision comes after Washington became more vocal and visible in recent months to bolster alliances in the Pacific against an assertive Beijing
- China’s potential military foothold in South Pacific likely to dominate discussions, after it signed a security pact with Solomon Islands in April
Visiting Tonga, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the leaders would be invited to Washington for a meeting and dinner late in the month.
The move comes amid a flurry of US shuttle diplomacy looking to bolster alliances in the Pacific against a more assertive Beijing.
Washington has announced it will open a series of new diplomatic missions in the region, and has been more vocal and visible in recent months.
On Saturday, Sherman will attend a series of events in the neighbouring Solomon Islands, which is marking the 80th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Guadalcanal.
The Solomon Islands are at the centre of a renewed South Pacific rivalry between Beijing and Washington.
A series of decisions by Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare that appear to echo China’s authoritarian style of governance may also be up for discussion.
Sogavare has moved to censor the public broadcaster, threatened other media and repeatedly floated delaying planned elections.
“For Tonga climate change is existential, and we understand that. And it’s just terribly disappointing that the world’s largest emitter right now, and a country who must be engaged for us to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, has now withdrawn from that discussion,” Sherman said.