US opens embassy in Solomon Islands
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The United States has officially opened its embassy in the Solomon Islands in a bid to temper China’s influence in the Pacific island nation, whose security agreement with Beijing frets Washington.
The U.S. launched the embassy in the capital city of Honiara, less than one year after the White House announced its intent to open it.
“Doing so symbolizes a renewal of our relationship and underlines the strength of our commitment to our bilateral relations, the people of Solomon Islands, and our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said after the embassy’s opening on Feb. 2.
“The opening of the embassy builds on our efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors, connect United States programs and resources with needs on the ground, and build people-to-people ties,” Blinken said.
The U.S. shut down its embassy in the Solomon Islands in 1993, thus leaving the door open for China.
Beijing’s clout on the Solomon Islands became clear when it succeeded in luring the island nation away from Taiwan in 2019.
In 2021, the Solomon Islands signed a security agreement with China, stirring speculation that it foreshadowed the establishment of the People Liberation Army’s presence in the Pacific island region.
Despite assurance from Manasseh Sogavare, the Solomons’ prime minister, that he would not allow the creation of a Chinese military base, the security deal continues to be a nagging concern that causes the United States and Pacific island nations sleepless nights.
“We value our shared history and sacrifice with Solomon Islands and look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership in a range of areas, including economic development, combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, and addressing the challenges of climate change,” Blinken said.
He said the opening of the embassy became official as of Jan. 27. Russell Comeau will continue to serve as U.S. chargé d’affaires ad interim at the new U.S. Embassy Honiara. Comeau arrived in the Solomon Islands in October 2021.