By EDDIE OSIFELO
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink has rejected assertion that US haven’t paid much attention to Solomon Islands since they removed their embassy in 1993.
Ambassador Kritenbrink clarified this when asked by Demetri Sevastopulo from the Financial Times in Washington during a teleconference with him.
Sevastopulo said he was just curious, some foreign policy experts say that the U.S. in a sense opened the door to China on the security deal with the Solomon Islands because it didn’t have an embassy since 1993 and may not have paid enough attention to the Solomons in terms of economic and diplomatic engagement.
“In that context, I’m curious– in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, or PNG, was there any discussion about those countries getting involved in some way in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework that the Biden administration is going to unveil shortly?”
However, Ambassador Kritenbrink said first, the United States has been and remains actively engaged across the entire Indo-Pacific region, across the Pacific Islands, and certainly within the Solomon Islands itself.
“And I can rattle off a whole range of activities from the 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines we’ve provided to the Solomons in the past six months, the Millennium Challenge Corporation threshold program that we have inked which is a four-year, $20 million program.
“I can talk about the U.S. Geological Survey and USAID and their programs to help monitor the Savo Volcano,” he said.
“Certainly, we can talk about our past provision of unexploded ordnance clearance assistance and how we’ll continue to expand that, and the many other things that we’re doing.
“So, we’re certainly engaged, and of course I should mention the five-year, $25 million SCALE program as well,” he added.
“So again, that’s just one small snapshot of some of the things that we’ve been doing in the Solomons, and I think you’re aware of our broader engagement across the region, highlighted most recently by Secretary Blinken’s stop in Fiji in February,” he said.