The Undersecretary of State of the United States, Wendy Sherman, begins a tour of several islands in the South Pacific, with final stops in Australia and New Zealand, in the midst of a fight between China and the United States to increase their influence in the area, with which Beijing seeks to sign a multilateral agreement.
Sherman is expected to arrive in Samoa imminently, after the State Department announced early Thursday that he will travel there, and then to Tonga, Solomon, Australia and New Zealand, between August 3 and 9.
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In Samoa, Sherman will be the first senior US government official to visit the country after the opening of its borders on August 1, closed until then due to the covid-19 pandemic, and will be received by the first Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
The deputy secretary will also become the highest-ranking American politician who has ever visited Tonga, where she will commemorate the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries and begin discussions on the possibility of opening an embassy there, according to the statement from the department of Condition.
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The next stop, in the Solomon Islands, is of special importance, since this country has signed a controversial security agreement with China that the US, Australia and New Zealand, its historical partners, fear is aimed at creating a base there by Beijing, something that both sides deny.
In addition to participating in commemorative events for the 80th anniversary of the battle of Guadalcanal, fought in the Solomons between the US and Japan in World War II, which will also be attended by the US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy Sherman will push through plans to open an embassy there as well.
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Sherman’s trip evidences the diplomatic commitment of the United States in an area that had been neglected, fostering the growing influence of China, which this year has taken another step forward by proposing an agreement on security and economic cooperation with a dozen Pacific countries, including Samoa, Tonga and Solomon.
Although Beijing’s proposal – raised during a trip by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the area last June – has not yet been accepted by all the nations involved, China has assured that it will not abandon the plan.
Sherman will conclude his tour in Australia and New Zealand, where he will hold meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, respectively, to strengthen bilateral ties with the two countries.
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