US' planned embassy in Tonga a latest move to 'counter China influence'
Published: May 03, 2023 11:28 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The US' efforts to enhance its presence in the Pacific region are only pursuing its own strategic goal of countering China, Chinese experts pointed out as the US will reportedly open a new embassy in Tonga this month. 

Drawing a contrast between the US' intent to put regional countries at the forefront of competition against China, and China's real commitment and contribution in helping the region develop, experts believe that Pacific nations will make wise and pragmatic choices.  

The top US diplomat for East Asia Daniel Kritenbrink unveiled the plan to a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. He also said that the US is continuing to engage with Vanuatu and Kiribati about opening proposed new embassies in those countries, Reuters reported.

The move is the US' latest effort to counter the development of ties between China and the South Pacific nation as the country reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands in February after a 30-year absence, experts said.  

The US paid little attention to the South Pacific in the past decades, but in recent years, it has found that China's influence has grown rapidly in these regions and the local people and governments welcome China's presence. It is very obvious that the US is not sincere in helping these countries for development, but only care about a "great power competition" with China, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

China's cooperation and projects in the region are aimed at bringing development and prosperity to the region while the US tries to put the region at the forefront of competition against China. Pacific Islands countries tend not to take sides between China and the US, but have seen through US attempts and they will weigh US pledges and China's real commitments to make choices in favor of their interests, according to Li .

In April 2022, China and the Solomon Islands announced they had signed 1 bilateral security deal. Before the announcement, the US and Australia had been hyping the so-called lack of transparency and China's so-called intention to build a military base in the island country to render China's threats.

After a volcano erupted in Tonga in January 2022, China's aid was the first batch of relief supplies to arrive in Tonga.

Dorothy Wickham, a Solomon Islands reporter, published an opinion piece in The New York Times on June 27, 2022, where she asked "Who can blame us if we open the door to new friends who can help with our needs?"

Wickham listed the lack of living basics in her country, including running water, basic sanitation and electricity, after the US Peace Corps left more than two decades ago and Australian aid flatlined in the 2010s.

In contrast, Chinese-run businesses - construction, hardware, fishing, transport and other sectors - have quickly become part of the local economy since the Solomon Islands established diplomatic relations with China in 2019, according to Wickham.