WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Friday that the U.S. will open an embassy in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu in its latest move to blunt China’s increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
The new embassy in Port Vila will be the fifth diplomatic mission that the U.S. has either opened or announced that it will build in the region over the past three years as it seeks to confront what it sees as a threat or challenge from China.
“Consistent with the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a permanent diplomatic presence in Vanuatu would allow the U.S. government to deepen relationships with Vanuatu officials and society,” the State Department said in a statement.
“Establishing U.S. Embassy Port Vila would facilitate areas of potential bilateral cooperation and development assistance, including efforts to tackle the climate crisis,” it said.
A low-lying island nation of some 300,000 people, Vanuatu last year declared a climate emergency as it faces moving dozens of villages to higher ground. Vanuatu, as one of the countries most immediately threatened, also is among the most outspoken and active islands in demanding greater effort by other countries to cut climate-wrecking pollution from burning coal, oil and natural gas.
This week, Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau’s government spearheaded passage of a U.N. resolution demanding that the U.N.’s high court strengthen requirements on countries to slow the climate’s warming and deal with the impact.
That announcement follows a high-level visit to Vanuatu and other Pacific islands led by the White House’s top Asia-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell. The U.S. is currently represented in Vanuatu by the American ambassador in New Guinea.
The U.S. recently opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands and will soon open one in the Maldives. Other embassies to be opened include in Tonga and Kiribati.
The administration has also moved to shore up existing close ties with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau by extending agreements with those Pacific nations that give them billions of dollars in aid in return for military and other basing rights.