According to the State Department, the United States plans to open an embassy in Vanuatu, a South Pacific island nation. This move is consistent with the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, which seeks to strengthen relationships with the Pacific region to counter China’s increasing influence.
The department stated that having a permanent diplomatic presence in Vanuatu would enable the U.S. government to deepen relationships with Ni-Vanuatu officials and society, and facilitate potential bilateral cooperation and development assistance, including efforts to address the climate crisis.
Vanuatu already has diplomatic relations with the United States, but it is currently represented by diplomats based in New Guinea. This latest announcement follows the reopening of the U.S. embassy in the Solomon Islands this year after a 30-year absence.
The United States is also planning to open embassies in Kiribati and Tonga. However, despite these diplomatic efforts, China continues to make inroads in the region, with the Solomon Islands recently awarding a multi-million-dollar contract to a Chinese state company to upgrade an international port in Honiara.
The United States and its regional allies are concerned that China may have ambitions to establish a naval base in the region, particularly after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with Beijing last year. In response, Washington is working to renew agreements with the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia, under which it retains responsibility for their defense and gains exclusive access to significant portions of the Pacific.
To insulate these countries from growing Chinese influence, the Biden administration is seeking over $7 billion in economic assistance over the next two decades for the three countries.