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US Vice President Launches $600 Million Pacific Offensive

The United States launched an offensive on Wednesday in an effort to stem China’s advances in the Pacific, with Vice President Kamala Harris announcing $600 million in funding during a regional summit.

In a speech at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji, Harris also said the US would open two new embassies in Tonga and Kiribati.

Washington will appoint its first ambassador to the Pacific and launch a national strategy for the region.

The US-China rivalry has fueled interest at this year’s forum, which brings together leaders from across the Pacific.

It was the first meeting of regional leaders since the Solomon Islands signed a controversial defense deal with China months ago.

Harris’ video conference speech was a diplomatic blow to Washington, as Beijing had not been invited to make such a presentation.

The Vice President thanked Fiji’s President Vorek Bainimarama for inviting him to attend the summit, adding that the US was ready to start “a new chapter” in the Pacific.

Harris indicated that he and President Joe Biden realize that the Pacific has not received enough attention in the past.

“We will change that,” he promised, adding that the US wants to “significantly deepen” its “presence” in the region.

Harris said the US wants to cooperate on maritime security, disaster relief and infrastructure projects.

“We are very pleased that the United States is opening an embassy in Tonga for the first time,” Prime Minister Xiaosi Sovaleni told AFP.

“A great achievement. We are happy to finally have a US presence in Tonga,” he added.

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