President Biden this week will welcome leaders from Pacific island nations and is expected to unveil new initiatives and funding for the region.
The U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit will take place Wednesday and Thursday and be focused on trade, aid and assistance, security, and other issues, according to senior administration officials.
“We’ve never done anything like this. This is unprecedented. The president and secretary of State will be basically unveiling tomorrow and Thursday substantial new initiatives, new funding that will affect … our compact negotiations, to the Peace Corps, to USAID,” officials said.
Biden will engage directly with the leaders on Thursday afternoon and host them for dinner at the White House that evening. Earlier that day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and other members will host leaders at the Capitol for lunch.
The meetings on Wednesday will be hosted by the State Department and include engagements on climate change and the Peace Corps; an event will take place at the Chamber of Commerce for engagements with business groups from tourism, technology, and other sectors; and the Coast Guard will host a dinner.
This is the first visit for many of the leaders to the White House. All Pacific nations and two French territories have been invited, and Guam will be a member of the U.S. delegation, officials said.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is in Washington, and “to the best of my knowledge, he will participate,” a senior administration official said. The Solomon Islands reportedly has signaled it won’t sign a declaration during the summit this week, ABC reported, which comes after the country signed a security pact with China.
The summit comes as China threatens to retake Taiwan by force and Biden recently in a “60 Minutes” interview replied “yes” when asked specifically if he would send U.S. forces to defend Taiwan in response to an invasion.
He has repeated the message multiple times recently that U.S. troops would defend the democratic island if China invades. Beijing has pushed back on Biden’s remarks, further adding to already-inflated U.S.-China tensions following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.