This is a bold statement by the U.S., which outlines in unorthodox terms a plan to increase American influence in the South Pacific country before China becomes "strongly integrated."
The reasoning was explained by a State Department notification to Congress, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary Of State, confirmed the plan during his Saturday visit to Fiji as part of a Pacific tour that began with Australia.
Later, Blinken landed in Hawaii to meet the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers. They will discuss the threat North Korea poses amid growing concerns about its recent missile testing.
According to the State Department, Solomon Islanders cherish their relationship with Americans during World War II. However, the U.S. is at risk of losing its preferred ties as China aggressively seeks to engage elite politicians in the Solomon Islands.
After rioting erupted in November, the country of 700,000. The riots were sparked by peaceful protests and highlighted long-standing regional rivalries, economic issues, and concerns about the country’s increasing connections with China. This was after the country switched allegiances from Taiwan three years ago. Rioters set fires to buildings and stole stores.
The Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogare won a no confidence vote in. He told lawmakers in a fiery 90 minute speech that he had done nothing wrong, and that he would not submit to the "forces of evil" or "Taiwan’s agents."
Five years ago, the United States had an embassy in Solomons. It was closed in 1993. U.S. diplomats have been accredited to Solomons since 1993 by U.S. consular agents.
This announcement coincides with the new Biden administration strategy in the Indo-Pacific, which was announced Friday. It emphasizes building relationships with allies in this region to counter China’s growing influence.
The State Department informed Congress that China was "using a familiar pattern, extravagant promises, potential costly infrastructure loans and potentially dangerous debt levels" when it engaged with Solomon Islands political and business leaders.
The State Department stated that the United States had a strategic interest in strengthening our political, economic and commercial relations with Solomon Islands, which is the largest Pacific Island nation without U.S. Embassy.
Although the State Department stated that it did not expect to build an embassy right away, it would lease space for $12.4 million at its initial setup cost. The Embassy would be in Honiara's capital. It would have two U.S. employees as well as five local staff.
According to the State Department, the Peace Corps planned to reopen a Solomon Islands office and have volunteers serve there. Additionally, several U.S. agencies were creating government positions in the Solomons with portfolios.
It stated that the Department should be part of an increased U.S. presence rather than being a distant player.
Blinken met with Aiyaz Syed-Khaiyum, Acting Prime Minister, and other Pacific leaders during his visit to Fiji to discuss regional issues, including the existential threat posed by climate changes. This was the first U.S. secretary-of-state visit to Fiji since 1985.
Sayed-Khaiyum stated that he was happy for the renewed U.S. engagement and President Joe Biden’s decision last year to join the Paris Agreement. He stated that the Pacific island nations have felt sometimes overlooked by larger countries as "flyovers" in the past.
He said, "Small dots were spotted from plane windows by leaders, en route for meetings where they spoke more about us than with us,"
Blinken and Pacific leaders also discussed the coronavirus pandemic as well as disaster assistance. The increasing tensions in Ukraine loomed over the visit.
Blinken stated that "we continue to see very troubling signs Russian escalation," including new forces arriving at Ukraine's borders.
After leaving Melbourne, Australia, Blinken traveled to Fiji, where he met with his counterparts from India, Australia and Japan. These four countries form the "Quad", an Indo-Pacific bloc of democracies created to counter China’s regional influence.