More US officials to visit Pacific islands to counter China

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More US officials to visit Pacific islands to counter China

Kurt Campbell, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator, says he expects to see more US cabinet-level officials visit Pacific island countries as the US steps up its engagement in the region to counter China.

Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington, Mr Campbell said the United States needed more diplomatic facilities across the region, and more contact with Pacific island countries that at times receive less attention. I think there will be more cabinet-level officials going to the Pacific as we go forward. Mr Campbell said that direct engagement is a good thing, because nothing replaces diplomatic boots on the ground.

US President Joe Biden's administration has vowed to commit more resources to the Indo-Pacific as China has increased economic, military and police links with strategically important Pacific island nations that are hungry for foreign investment.

Beijing's security pact with the Solomon Islands this year has highlighted its growing influence, a move that has sparked concerns in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Sovereignty is central to how we see the Pacific in general. Any initiative that compromises or calls into question that sovereignty, I think we would have concerns with, without referring to China, said Campbell.

Washington has said it will expedite the opening of an embassy in the Solomon Islands, which was announced earlier this year when Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Fiji, the first visit by the top diplomat of the United States in four decades.

Campbell said he envisioned Fiji to be one of the United States' hubs of engagement.

The United States has not always taken the needs of islanders into account in the past, and so I want to just underscore our mantra will be nothing in the Pacific without the Pacific, he said.

We do not take these bonds for granted.