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US Deputy Secretary visits Australia, South Pacific

The official has embarked on a tour of the region amid mounting concern over China’s growing influence.

The official has embarked on a tour of the region amid mounting concern over China’s growing influence.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is scheduled to visit Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Australia, and New Zealand over the coming week as part of a broader commitment to strengthen engagement with the region following advances from Beijing.

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Her first stop in Samoa will involve a meeting with Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa to be followed by a meeting with King Tupou VI and other senior Tongan government officials.

Discussions are expected to focus on bilateral cooperation, including the potential establishment of a US embassy in Tonga.

Deputy Secretary Sherman will then visit the Solomon Islands, which recently signed a controversial security agreement with China.  

Meanwhile, the senior official’s visit to Canberra is expected to include a meeting with Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Jan Adams, and other senior Australian officials to discuss US-Australia collaboration.

The tour will wrap up in Wellington, where she will meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Chief Executive and Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed, and other government officials.

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Deputy Secretary Sherman’s visit comes less than a month after US Vice President Kamala Harris announced a new strategy aimed at deepening US presence in the region.

The strategy includes:

  • establishing new US Embassies in Kiribati and Tonga;
  • $60 million per year as part of an economic assistance agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency;
  • the appointment of an inaugural US envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum;
  • designing and releasing the inaugural US National Strategy on the Pacific Islands — a whole-of-government strategy to prioritise the Pacific Islands in American foreign policy and “drive effective implementation”;
  • reintroducing the Peace Corps to the Pacific — volunteers returning to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu;
  • advancing a push to re-establish a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Mission for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji — providing humanitarian and development assistance across the Pacific Islands; and
  • implementing and advancing the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) agreement — cooperating with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to more effectively support Pacific priorities.

The strategy builds on US President Joe Biden’s appointment of a Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations and $350 million in annual US assistance to the Pacific.

Deputy Secretary Sherman’s visit also comes amid US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s own tour of the region, which included a visit to Taiwan for meetings with senior government and parliamentary officials.

This was despite a stern warning from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

[Related: Tensions flare as Pelosi touches down in Taiwan ]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

US Deputy Secretary visits Australia, South Pacific
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