Officials have tried to downplay concerns that Pacific leaders could reject a draft deal with the United States ahead of a major summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden is hosting many Pacific Island leaders at the White House for a summit for the first time.
Officials have spent weeks negotiating a joint agreement that provides a framework for U.S. engagement in the Pacific.
But hours before the summit began, leaders expressed concern over an 11-point declaration described as similar to the one presented to 10 Pacific leaders in May.
Ahead of the summit, a senior U.S. government official acknowledged that “there is more to be done” and downplayed concerns that leaders did not agree with the joint statement.
“We expect (the discussions) to continue tomorrow and the leaders to take their seats later in the day,” he said.
“Such exchanges are not uncommon.”
A senior government official confirmed that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manase Sogavare, who signed a controversial security pact with China earlier this year, will attend the summit.
“We expect them to actively participate in our conferences over the next few days,” he said.
“I expect all delegations here to attend.”
A number of trade, aid and security pain points were identified. Instead of “wanting to get ahead,” the official said, “the Pacific Islanders have made it clear that they want us as partners.”
The summit is read as an attempt by the United States to strengthen its ties with the Pacific region in response to China’s growing engagement in the region.
This follows the establishment of Blue Pacific, a group of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, UK and US to strengthen cooperation in the region.
Representatives from Australia and New Zealand will also attend the meeting.
“The idea here is to get countries of interest … step up their game and add more resources, more capabilities, more diplomatic engagement as a whole,” said the official. said.
first published as US officials downplay concerns that Pacific summit could fail
US officials downplay concerns that Pacific summit could fail
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