5 Sep 2022

Pacific leaders heading to Washington for summit with Joe Biden

8:03 am on 5 September 2022

US President Joe Biden will host leaders of Pacific Island nations in Washington later this month.

The summit will take place on September 28-29.

The White House said the summit will reflect the United States' broadening and deepening cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection, and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

US President Joe Biden at White House during meeting with Jacinda Ardern

Photo: Joy Asico/Asico Photo

An administration official said the Biden Administration had invited 12 Pacific Islands countries, including Solomon Islands, which in April struck a security pact with China, heightening Washington's concern about Beijing's growing influence.

The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji were invited, as well as the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu, which Taiwan counts among its 14 diplomatic allies.

The US has not invited the Cook Islands, Niue, New Caledonia or French Polynesia.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano arrived in Taipei on Saturday for a week-long trip and will sign an agreement reaffirming diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry said.

Natano, whose country this month marks 43 years of ties with Taiwan, will meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday.

Pacific Islands Forum chair and prime minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano.

Pacific Islands Forum chair and prime minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano. Photo: PIF

The White House did not provide details on which countries had confirmed attendance for the summit, which had been signalled as a priority by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during a trip to the region in August.

During that trip, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare skipped a planned appearance with Sherman at a World War II commemoration, and later that month his government did not respond to a US Coast Guard vessel's request to refuel.

The United States has stepped up engagement with Pacific Islands countries under Biden, sending several senior official delegations and announcing plans to open embassies in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Tonga.