US President Joe Biden has seen Chinese leaders make a push for influence in the Pacific. On Monday, he welcomed leaders from throughout the region to the White House.
Biden welcomed the heads of the Pacific Islands Forum for a second summit in Washington in just over a year. He has heard their warnings about the impacts of climate change and threats to their security. He told them he is working on a package to invest 40 million dollars in regional infrastructure projects.
"The United States is committed to ensuring the Indo-Pacific region is free, open, prosperous and secure," Biden said. "We're committed to working with all the nations around this table to achieve that goal."
Biden also recognized the independence of the Cook Islands and Niue and promised to establish diplomatic ties.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said, "these milestones celebrate eras of change."
US officials say they were "disappointed" when one Pacific leader decided to skip the summit. The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, was in New York last week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Instead of heading to Washington, he returned home. In July, he traveled to Beijing to build on a security pact he had reached with Chinese leaders last year.