US opens Pacific embassy to counter China
As China continues to assert Pacific hegemony, the U.S. announced it will reopen their embassy in the Solomon Islands.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the diplomatic move Saturday during a visit to Fiji for the Pacific Islands Forum.
Solomon Islands broke its diplomatic ties with Taiwan (ROC) in 2019, opting to instead recognize the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the one true China. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told reporters the move was an economic one, citing China’s promises to upgrade the island nation’s schools and hospitals.
The decision sparked populist protests in the capital city Honiara in November which led to 4 deaths and spurred Australia and China to send in their military and quell the riots.
The majority of the protesters hailed from the island nation’s most populist province, Malaita.
They traveled from their native island to the capital to speak with Prime Minister Sogavare about the decision to rebuke Taiwan. The peaceful protests turned violent when Sogavare refused to speak with the demonstrators, accusing them of being Taiwanese agents.
Sogavare’s handling of the crisis led to a December 2021 no-confidence vote, which he ultimately survived.
The embassy’s opening will not be the first time the U.S. puts its thumb on the scale within the archipelago nation. In 2020, while Malaita was proposing a referendum on independence, America granted the province $25 million in aid. The move was widely interpreted by experts as a transparent counter to China’s growing influence.