Biden is too weak to fight to win. The State Department says it plans a massive increase in diplomatic personnel and spending for facilities at new U.S. embassies in the Pacific islands as the Biden administration forges ahead with efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
In a notice sent to Congress, the department said it envisions hiring up to 40 staffers over the next five years for each of four recently opened or soon-to-be-opened embassies in the Pacific. Those include an embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands, that opened in January; an embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, that opened in May and planned embassies in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and in Tarawa, Kiribati. Currently there are only two temporary American staffers each in Honiara and Nuku’alofa. At each of those posts, the department says it will spend at least $10 million for start-up, design and construction costs. Only a portion of that amount is included in the administration’s current budget proposal and the department said that in addition to that amount, each new embassy will need $3.3 million a year to cover upkeep and operating costs.
The update to Congress, which was sent on Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, comes as the administration moves to boost the U.S. presence in the Pacific in response to China’s increasing assertiveness there. It also came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Indonesia for a southeast Asian regional security forum and plannedn extended Pacific trip at the end of July. The notice pointed out that China has permanent diplomatic facilities in eight of the 12 Pacific island nations that the United States recognizes and said the U.S. needs to catch up.
“The lack of a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in more heavily populated (Pacific islands) undermines U.S. efforts to engage as an indispensable partner and Pacific power during a time of heightened strategic competition,” it said. “To address this challenge, the United States has moved to dramatically increase its diplomatic and development engagement with the region.”