(PresidentialInsider.com)- The United States is working hard to counter China in Asia, and the next step in that process was sending Vice President Kamala Harris to the Pacific Islands Forum, which was held earlier this week.
According to senior administration officials, Harris was set to announce brand new measures such as creating U.S. embassies in both Tonga and Kiribati. She was also set to announce America’s first envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as re-establishing the Peace Corps in that region of the world.
In addition, Harris told the forum that they will be establishing a U.S. Agency for International Development regional mission, which will be based in Fiji. The vice president is also set to request Congress allot more economic aid for these Pacific Islands, at an amount that would almost triple what the U.S. is sending currently.
A senior official in the Biden administration told Reuters this week:
“In short, the vice president will be announcing that we are stepping up our game in the Pacific Islands. This new chapter … will feature increased diplomatic presence on the ground throughout the region.”
China is currently working to boost their police, military and economic links with some of the nations in the Pacific Islands, just as these countries are in desperate need of foreign economic aid. In response, the Biden administration is trying to make inroads there, and Harris is going to be the face of that effort — at least at first.
Earlier this year, China established with the Solomon Islands a security pact. That caused concern among some other nations in the region including New Zealand and Australia, as well as the United States.
Reuters asked the administration official to comment about competing with China in the region, and they responded:
“We are not asking countries to choose … we are focusing on our own engagement.”
That being said, the United States is working to open their embassy in the Solomon Islands as soon as possible. So, it’s hard to say that the U.S. isn’t looking at the region as somewhat of a competition. They likely want to try to exert some influence there so that China doesn’t essentially take over and completely control some of these smaller island nations.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, visited Fiji earlier in the year, which marked the first trip by an American secretary of state to the region in nearly 40 years. During that trip, he announced that the U.S. would be opening a new embassy there.
The Pacific Islands Forum began on Monday of this week, with at least some tension and controversy. There was an obvious heir of concern about China’s expansion, according to officials, and there was also worry that Kiribati, a small island nation, withdrew from forum.
China has been attempting to expand its reach in the Pacific for a few years now, and the United States has been trying to do everything it can to prevent that from happening.