The news broke as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Fiji on Saturday, halfway through a Pacific tour that started in Australia and ended in Hawaii.
The United States has announced the opening of an embassy in the Solomon Islands, laying out a plan to expand its influence in the South Pacific nation before China becomes “deeply embedded.”
Solomon Islanders loved their connection with Americans on World War II battlefields, but the US was in danger of losing preferential treatment as China “aggressively strives to engage” elite leaders and business people in the Solomon Islands, according to the State Department.
The action comes after riots rocked the 700,000-strong country in November. The riots erupted from a peaceful protest, exposing long-simmering regional rivalries, economic issues, and fears over the country’s growing ties with China. Buildings were set on fire, and stores were plundered.
The following month, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare survived a no-confidence vote by declaring lawmakers that he’d done nothing wrong and would not bow down to “the forces of evil” or “Taiwan’s agents” in a heated 90-minute address.