“We will embark on a new chapter in our partnership, a chapter with increased American presence, where we commit to work with you in the short and long term to take on the most pressing issues that you face"
| Radio New Zealand Pacific | Edited
AUCKLAND - United States vice-president Kamala Harris has assured Pacific Islands Forum leaders who are meeting in Suva that the US will “significantly deepen” its engagement in the region.
Harris virtually joined the regional leaders to announce half a dozen new commitments including establishing embassies in Kiribati and Tonga, tripling funding for economic development and ocean resilience and the appointing the first-ever US envoy to the Forum.
She said the US recognised that it had not provided the required “diplomatic attention and support” to Pacific nations in recent years and this would now change.
“We will significantly deepen our engagement in the Pacific Islands,” Harris said.
“We will embark on a new chapter in our partnership, a chapter with increased American presence, where we commit to work with you in the short and long term to take on the most pressing issues that you face.
“The United States is a proud Pacific nation and has an enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands which is why president Joe Biden and I seek to strengthen our partnership with you.
“In this region and around the world, the US believes it is important to strengthen the international rules based order: to defend it, to promote it and to build on it.
“These international rules and norms have brought peace and stability to the Pacific for more than 75 years.
Harris said the US will provide $60 million (K11 million) a year for the next 10 years to help strengthen climate resilience, combat illegal fishing and enhance maritime security.
Forum secretary-general Henry Puna welcomed the US commitment, saying it was a good sign of friendship.
Fiji prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama also commended the US for its renewed intentions.
He said he and fellow leaders welcomed policies such as appointing a designated US envoy to the forum.
“I think it’s clear to see that the US is certainly looking more like the Pacific partner that we have traditionally held it to be.
“We look forward to deeper engagement to support our development and build our capacity at the regional and national level,” Bainimarama said.