The Biden administration wants to strengthen its ties with the Pacific, a top US diplomat said, while warning that the region faces a struggle from countries that try to coerce and pressure the Pacific Islands family.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman travelled to the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara as part of an inter-agency delegation to attend a memorial for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Ms Sherman gave a speech at the US-hosted event in Skyline Ridge, the site of the US Guadalcanal Memorial, and said the US was committed to investing in their relationship with Pacific partners to address the challenges of the coming decades.
President Joe Biden has made solidarity with the Pacific Islands a priority for his entire administration from the beginning, she said.
The future of the entire region depends on cooperation with the Pacific Islands. In a reference to the growing tensions with China in the region, as well as current conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere, Ms Sherman criticised world leaders who used coercion, pressure, and violence as tools to disrupt peace.
She said leaders who seem to have forgotten the awful lessons learned here, or perhaps never took them to heart in the first place.
We are once again engaged in a different kind of struggle that will last a long time to come. Ms Sherman said it was up to us to achieve a future defined by shared values and vision for a free and open, prosperous and secure, and above all peaceful Indo-Pacific. Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Australia, was also present at the event.
She paid tribute to Solomon Islanders who had risked their lives to help the allied forces hold Guadalcanal during World War II.
Ms Kennedy said countless Americans and family members of allied personnel have the Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers to thank for the survival of many during the war.
Ms Kennedy's father, former US president John F. Kennedy, who had served as a captain on a patrol torpedo boat in the Solomon Islands during WWII, famously saved the lives of fellow crew members after the ship sank.
Mr Kennedy and the other survivors were later spotted by the Australian Coastwatch unit and rescued by two Solomon Islander scouts from a nearby island.
She said she was deeply touched to be here today, knowing that I might not be here today if it were not for Biaku Gasa and Eroni Kumana, who had saved her father's life.
The ambassador heard of her famous father's lucky escape during a tour of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra last week.
The six-month battle, which claimed the lives of more than 25,000 allied and Japanese servicemen, was a turning point in the allies' war in the Pacific and showed the strategic importance of the Solomon Islands.
Mal Sherman's father, Mal Sherman, served as US Marines during World War II and fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Ms Sherman is currently on a tour of the region as part of the US's re-engagement in the Pacific. Her delegation visited Samoa and Tonga earlier in the week, where the US expressed interest in establishing an embassy in the Tongan capital, Kiribati and Solomon Islands.
After the memorial event, she met Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to discuss topics including bilateral cooperation on tackling COVID 19 and poverty, as well as the opening of a US embassy in Honiara.
She is expected to go to Canberra next week to meet with Foreign Minister Penny Wong to discuss bilateral trade and the fight against climate change.