The White House says a high-level U.S. delegation visit to Pacific Island nations this month was a demonstration of its commitment towards a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific. The visits came amid concerns over China’s growing influence in the region.
The delegation, led by National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell, met with the Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji and senior government officials, members of the political opposition, and partner countries in the region.
In meetings with the New Zealand Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, officials discussed the importance of coordinating efforts in the Pacific. The two sides expressed interest in establishing a working group to discuss emerging technologies and areas for future collaboration.
In Papua New Guinea, the delegation discussed next steps to conclude negotiations on a shiprider agreement and Defense Cooperation Agreement. Both sides emphasised the importance of deepening bilateral ties to bolster collaboration on critical issues such as combatting illegal fishing, protecting maritime resources, and strengthening health infrastructure.
Following up on the April 2022 visit to the Solomon Islands, the two countries discussed a range of issues including protection of maritime resources, economic development, and education. The dialogue resulted in commitments to establish a technical assistance workshop and explore an education initiative with Solomon Islands National University, among other items. The second session of the dialogue will be held later this year.
In Vanuatu, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau emphasised the importance of U.S. presence in the region and the desire to work with the United States and other like-minded nations in combatting climate change and building capacity to combat illegal fishing and protect maritime resources. USAID announced an additional US$3.2 million in humanitarian assistance to support relief efforts following the Cyclones Judy and Kevin. The United States has also allocated funds to build an intensive care unit at Vila Central Hospital which will allow the hospital to provide additional healthcare services The U.S. is also exploring the possibility of setting up an embassy in Port Vila as part of U.S. efforts to demonstrate long-term commitment to the region.
In Fiji, the delegation met with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to discuss the Partners of the Blue Pacific (PBP) and how the PBP can work to support the PIF and the region’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. In meetings with Prime Minster Sitiveni Rabuka and Fijian government officials, the two sides discussed cooperation on protecting marine resources, resilience to climate change, and broadening economic and educational opportunities. The two sides also discussed ways to counter illegal activities such illegal fishing and trafficking of narcotics.