U.S. reopens embassy in the Solomon Islands to counter China

Flag-raising ceremony to celebrate opening of U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands
Dignitaries attend a flag-raising ceremony celebrating the opening of the U.S. Embassy in the Solomon Islands on Thursday.
(U.S. Embassy to the Solomon Islands)

The U.S. opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands on Thursday in its latest move to counter China’s push in the Pacific.

The embassy in the capital, Honiara, is starting small, with a chargé d’affaires, a couple of State Department staff and a handful of local employees. The U.S. previously operated an embassy in the Solomon Islands for five years before closing it in 1993 as part of a global reduction in diplomatic posts after the end of the Cold War.

But China’s bold moves in the region have the U.S. seeking to increase its engagement in a number of ways, such as by donating COVID-19 vaccines, bringing back Peace Corps volunteers to several island nations and investing in forestry and tourism projects.


“The opening of the embassy builds on our efforts not only to place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to engage further with our Pacific neighbors, connect United States programs and resources with needs on the ground, and build people-to-people ties,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement.

The opening comes as Fiji’s new leader, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, appears to be reassessing some aspects of his nation’s engagement with China. Rabuka told the Fiji Times last week that he planned to end a police training and exchange agreement with China.

The U.S. State Department notified lawmakers early last year that China’s growing influence in the region made reopening the Solomon Islands embassy a priority. Since then, the small island nation has signed a security pact with China, raising fears of a military buildup in the region, and the U.S. has countered by sending several high-level delegations.

As the U.S. expands military operations in Australia’s Darwin Port, both countries are uneasy over the fact that a Chinese company controls it.

Feb. 2, 2023

The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from the self-ruled island of Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.

“We are seeing this bond weaken as the People’s Republic of China aggressively seeks to engage Solomon Islands’ political and business elites, utilizing a familiar pattern of extravagant promises, prospective costly infrastructure loans, and potentially dangerous debt levels,” the State Department said in a December notice to Congress that was obtained by the Associated Press.

A senior State Department official who insisted on anonymity to brief the media said the U.S. had been encouraged by the Solomon Islands’ commitment to continue working with traditional security partners such as Australia and the U.S. but remained concerned about the secrecy surrounding the security agreement with China. The Solomon Islands’ close ties with the U.S. date back to World War II.


The official said any type of militarization in the Pacific by China would be of great concern.

The Solomon Islands’ diplomatic break from Taiwan is but one cause of the many troubles and ethnic divisions within the South Pacific archipelago.

Nov. 26, 2021

The official said the U.S. had yet to have deep conversations with the new leadership in Fiji, and so it was too early to tell if the move on policing signaled a change in direction for Fiji on China.

The Fijian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.