Top U.S. officials to visit Solomon Islands amid China security concerns

STORY: Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will lead a delegation that includes Department of Defense and U.S. Agency for International Development officials to three countries: the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the White House National Security Council said in a statement.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said concerns over China would be among the subjects discussed with Solomon Islands officials.

U.S. policy toward the region was about ensuring countries understand the benefits of engagement with Washington and "not about China or any other country," Price said at a regular press briefing.

In February, the United States announced it would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, part of an effort by the Biden administration to commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to counter China's drive for greater influence.

The Solomon Islands said in March that it was creating a partnership with China to tackle security threats and ensure a safe environment for investment in what would be a major inroad for Beijing in a region that U.S. allies Australia and New Zealand have for decades seen as their "backyard."

After a regional backlash, the Solomon Islands said it would not allow a Chinese military base there.

But U.S. officials remain concerned that the broad nature of the proposed agreement with China leaves the door open for the deployment of Chinese forces on the Solomon Islands, Price said.

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