The United States has opened a new embassy in Tonga, the State Department said Tuesday, as part of efforts to step up a US diplomatic presence in the Pacific region to counter China.
The United States “officially opened the US Embassy in Nuku’alofa on May 9, 2023,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
«This opening symbolizes the renewal of our relationship and underscores the strength of our commitment to our bilateral relations, to the people of Tonga and to our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region,» the statement said.
Miller said the embassy would allow Washington to deploy additional diplomatic personnel and resources, including the possible appointment of a resident ambassador to Tonga, with whom the United States has had diplomatic relations since 1972.
The embassy announcement came after the White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden will become the first sitting US president.
Washington reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands this year after a 30-year absence, the top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said last week, saying Washington was continuing to engage with Vanuatu and Kiribati on the opening of proposed new embassies in those countries. countries.
Despite diplomatic pressure, the Solomon Islands announced in March that it had awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to a Chinese state-owned company to upgrade an international port in Honiara.
The United States and its regional allies Australia and New Zealand have been concerned that China has ambitions to build a naval base in the region since the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with Beijing last year.
Washington has also been working to renew agreements with the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia under which it retains responsibility for the defense of the islands and gains exclusive access to large swathes of the Pacific.