Joe Biden will host the Pacific Islands Summit at the White House

NUKUALOFA, TONGA: President of the United States Joe Biden will host the Pacific Island leaders of the White House in September, a senior US diplomat said on Saturday, deepening a regional charm offensive to counter growing Chinese influence.
Visiting Tonga, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the leaders would be invited Washington for a meeting and dinner at the end of the month.
“This meeting will be a historic opportunity for the United States and the Pacific Island countries to hear and listen the Pacific way,” Sherman said.
The move comes amid a wave of US shuttle diplomacy that seeks to strengthen Pacific alliances against a more assertive Beijing.
Washington has announced it will open a series of new diplomatic missions in the region and has been more vocal and visible in recent months.
State Secretary Anthony Blinken visited and Vice President Kamala Harris recently gave a remarkable address to the Pacific Islands Forum.
On Saturday, Sherman will attend a series of events in the neighboring Solomon Islands marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal.
The Solomon Islands are at the center of renewed rivalry in the South Pacific between Beijing and Washington.
China signed an undisclosed security pact with the island nation in April, alarming Western allies.
The deal, which critics fear could lead to China’s military buildup in the South Pacific, is likely to be high on the agenda of the US visit.
A series of decisions by Solomon’s Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, which appear to reflect China’s authoritarian style of governance, may also be up for discussion.
Sogavare began censoring the public broadcaster, threatened other media and repeatedly proposed delaying the planned elections.
During the visit to Tonga, Sherman highlighted the potential local impact of China’s recent decision to suspend climate talks with the United States, prompted by a visit by the top Democrat in Congress Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“For Tonga, climate change is existential and we understand that. And it’s terribly disappointing that the biggest emitter in the world right now, and a country that needs to commit to getting to 1.5 degrees Celsius, has now withdrawn from this discussion,” Sherman said.
Under the terms of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, nations aim to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Sea-level rise is the main concern in a region where many countries are only a few feet above sea level and are already feeling the effects of climate change.

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