President Joe Biden will host a first-ever summit with leaders of Pacific island nations in late September, the White House said Friday, signaling US interest in the region where China is seeking to expand its influence.
The two-day summit from Sept. 28 in Washington will reflect "deepening cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection, and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific," Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
The United States has been stepping up efforts to engage with the Pacific island nations, apparently due to alarm over Beijing's recent moves to bolster its influence such as the signing of a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April.
The Solomon Islands, located northeast of Australia, switched its diplomatic ties from self-ruled Taiwan to Beijing in 2019. The security pact has raised concerns that certain provisions may lead to a Chinese military presence in the island nation.
Concerns have already been increasing over China's growing assertiveness in the broader Indo-Pacific region, with Beijing militarizing outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea and carrying out repeated incursions into waters around the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
In July, the Biden administration announced a set of actions to enhance the US-Pacific islands partnership, including plans to open new embassies and secure USD$60 million per year for the next 10 years, nearly triple the current levels, for the region's economic development.
This article was published in thejakartapost.com with the title "Biden to host first US-Pacific island summit as China's clout grows".