US President Joe Biden will welcome Pacific island leaders at the White House in September . Deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman said the meeting would be a historic opportunity for the US and Pacific islands nations to hear and listen, in the Pacific way .
NUKUALOFA, TONGA: A senior American diplomat said on Saturday that US President Joe Biden will welcome Pacific island leaders at the White House in September, furthering a regional charm offensive to combat growing Chinese influence.According to deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman, who was visiting Tonga, the leaders will be invited to Washington for a meeting and dinner later in the month.Sherman said this meeting would be a historic opportunity for the US and Pacific islands nations to hear and listen, in the Pacific way.The step comes as a result of a flurry of US shuttle diplomacy aimed at strengthening alliances in the Pacific against a more assertive Beijing.Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Japan, and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a historic address to the Pacific Islands Forum on January 22.Sherman will take part in a series of activities in the nearby Solomon Islands on Saturday, marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II.Beijing and Washington are now at the forefront of a resurgent South Pacific conflict.In April, China signed an undisclosed security agreement with the island country, alarming Western allies. It may also be worth considering a list of decisions by Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare that seem to mimic Chinas authoritarian way of life.Sogavare has attempted to censor the public radio station, threatened other stations, and even suggested postponement of planned elections.Sherman discussed the potential local impact of Chinas recent decision to suspend climate talks with the US, which was triggered by the trip to Taiwan by top Congressional Democrat Nancy Pelosi.Climate change is existential for Tonga, and we fully grasp it. Countries are seeking to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius under the terms of the Paris climate agreement of 2015.In a world where many countries are only a few feet above sea level and are already feeling the effects of climate change, rising sea levels are the most critical issue.