By Pacific Island Times News Staff
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand this week to follow up on the U.S. government's commitment to step up Washington's engagement with the Pacific islands region to thwart China's growing influence.
According to the U.S. State Department, Sherman is scheduled to visit the Pacific states from Aug. 3 to 9.
"The deputy secretary’s travel to the region reflects the United States’ commitment to engage meaningfully with fellow Pacific nations in the spirit of partnership and friendship," according to a statement from the State Department's office of spokesperson.
Speaking virtually before the Pacific Islands Forum in July, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced additional aid, reactivation of the Peace Corps mission and reopening of Amerian embassies in Pacific island states.
In Apia, Samoa, Sherman will be the first senior U.S. official and among the first foreign officials to visit the country following the Aug. 1 reopening of Samoa’s international borders. She will meet with Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the State Department said.
In Nuku’alofa, Tonga, Sherman will meet with King Tupou VI and other senior Tongan government officials to commemorate 50 years of bilateral relations between the United States and Tonga.
The State Department said Sherman will discuss bilateral cooperation, including the United States’ interest in beginning discussions to establish a U.S. embassy in Tonga.
The State Department announced Washington is providing a $2.6 million assistance to Tonga to help the kingdom's recovery efforts from the volcano eruption and tsunami in January.
The State Department said Sherman will also deliver remarks at an event with Tongan students and young people, meet with members of Tongan civil society, and visit U.S. Peace Corps staff. The Peace Corps has been active in Tonga for 55 years and will return volunteers to the field in 2023.
In Honiara, Solomon Islands, Sherman will lead an interagency U.S. delegation to participate in the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
She will deliver remarks at a U.S.-hosted ceremony on Skyline Ridge, the site of the U.S. Guadalcanal Memorial, as well as at a Solomon Islands-hosted ceremony at Bloody Ridge.
Sherman and the U.S. delegation will attend memorial events hosted by the Solomon Islands and Japan that will focus on commemorating the sacrifices and lives of those who fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal from the United States and its allies, the people of Solomon Islands, and the people of Japan.
Sherman will also meet with Solomon Islands government officials, including Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, to highlight the enduring relationship between the United States and the Solomon Islands and the recent announcement of plans to open a U.S. embassy in Honiara.
Sherman will then visit Canberra, Australia, where she will meet with Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Jan Adams, and other senior Australian officials to discuss U.S.-Australia collaboration for a secure and prosperous region, the bilateral trade partnership, and their work to combat the climate crisis. The deputy secretary will also meet with young Australians to discuss the importance of further strengthening the U.S.-Australia Alliance.
In Wellington, New Zealand, Sherman will meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chief Executive and Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed and other government officials.
Sherman will discuss the strong bilateral partnership between the United States and New Zealand and ongoing cooperation on a range of regional and global challenges, the State Department said.