WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House announced Friday that President Joe Biden will host Pacific Island leaders in Washington later this month amid growing worries by the United States and Western allies about China’s activity in the region.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement the meetings Sept. 28-29 “will demonstrate the United States’ deep and enduring partnership with Pacific Island countries and the Pacific region.”
Biden has invited Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, and Fiji to take part in the summit, according to the White House.
The announcement comes days after the Solomon Islands earlier this week asked countries to not send naval vessels to the South Pacific nation until approval processes are overhauled, amid concerns over a new security pact between the Solomons and China.
The government made the request after the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Oliver Henry and the British navy patrol boat HMS Spey canceled planned port calls last week due to bureaucratic delays.
The United States and Britain are among countries concerned that a new security pact with Beijing could lead to a Chinese naval base being constructed less than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) off Australia’s northeast coast.
The Biden administration came into office in 2021 looking to put greater focus on Asia-Pacific amid growing concerns about China as an economic and military competitor.
To that end, Biden has agreed to the sale of nuclear submarines to Australia and raised the profile of the Indo-Pacific security dialogue known as the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the United States). He’s also called out China for military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and efforts to squelch pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.