The new US Embassy in the Solomon Islands is now up and running, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, as Washington aims to put a check on China's growing influence in the Pacific.
"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," Blinken said.
The embassy, which opened Thursday local time in the Solomons, will start out with a small staff. A charge d'affaires will manage the diplomatic outfit, which is based in the capital Honiara.
The US previously had an embassy in the Solomons for a 5-year period from 1988 to 1993. The embassy was shut in the early 1990s as Washington sought to downsize its global diplomatic operations in the wake of the Cold War.
Washington alarmed by China-Solomon agreement
Recent steps by China, however, have forced the US to refocus its diplomatic efforts on the Solomons, which has a population of around 700,000 people.
In April, China said it signed a security accord with the Pacific Island nation, sparking concern in Washington. The US, along with partners Australia and New Zealand, believe the agreement will allow China to extend its military influence in the South Pacific.
Solomon Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare signed onto the agreement after riots in November 2021.
The unrest was triggered by the government's decision to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China, with buildings being burned to the ground and protesters attempting to breach the parliament. Corruption, poverty and other factors also exacerbated the anger of the demonstrators.
Despite the China agreement, the Solomon Islands have pledged to continue cooperation with the US.
In September, the island nation signed onto the US-Pacific Partnership, which aims to boost cooperation in areas such as security, climate and trade.