WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The United States opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands on Thursday in its latest move to counter China’s push into the Pacific.

The embassy in the capital, Honiara, is starting small, with a chargé d’affaires, a couple of State Department employees and a handful of local employees. The United States previously operated an embassy in the Solomon Islands for five years before closing it in 1993 as part of a global reduction in diplomatic posts following the end of the Cold War.

But China’s bold moves in the region have the US looking to increase its commitment in a number of ways, including by donating Covid-19 vaccines, returning Peace Corps volunteers to several island nations, and investing in forestry and tourism projects.

“The embassy opening builds on our efforts to not only place more diplomatic personnel throughout the region, but also to further engage with our Pacific neighbors, connect U.S. programs and resources with needs on the ground, and build person-to-person relationships. ties”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The opening comes as Fiji’s new leader, Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, appears to be reassessing some aspects of his nation’s engagement with China. Rabuka told The Fiji Times last week that he planned to end a police training and exchange agreement with China.

The US State Department notified lawmakers early last year that China’s growing influence in the region made reopening the Solomon Islands embassy a priority. Solomon Islands has since signed a security pact with China, raising fears of a military buildup in the region, and the United States has responded by sending several high-level delegations.

The Solomon Islands switched allegiance from the self-governing island of Taiwan to Beijing in 2019, threatening close ties with the US dating back to World War II.

“We are seeing this link weaken as the PRC aggressively seeks to engage Solomon Islands political and business elites, using a familiar pattern of extravagant promises, potentially expensive infrastructure loans and potentially dangerous levels of debt,” the department said in a statement. December notice to Congress obtained by The Associated Press.