No Pacific nation has been left out of the meeting with United States president Joe Biden, following revelations that the initial list was missing Cook Islands and other nations.
Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna confirmed that all Forum members have been invited to the inaugural White House meeting with President Biden on September 28-29.
Mr Biden was initially invited to attend the Forum leaders meeting in July in person but this did not eventuate, with vice president Kamala Harris greeting the leaders virtually.
The United Nations General Assembly this week has provided Mr Biden opportunities to talk to the leaders face to face. It is believed one of the key objectives of the meeting is to commit the members to the Indo-Pacific Trade Agreement.
Mr Puna said the current strategic environment has seen growing international interest and partnerships with the Blue Pacific region emerging.
“It is important we continue to ensure these partnerships are built on genuine engagement and respond to our circumstances,” he said.
“The inclusion of all Forum Members in the US Summit is welcome news for our Pacific Leaders, who have continued to encourage deeper dialogue and engagement from all Forum partners. Importantly, it is clear from Pacific Leaders that, having resumed face to face meetings after two years of virtual contact, they want to protect and strengthen the collective unity powering their 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”
The White House meetings will likely focus on US – Pacific relations, climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery, ocean management, maritime security, and trade.
“The direction from our Forum Leaders is clear as they themselves have been steadfast in their encouragement of all Forum Dialogue Partners to recognise and respect our regional mechanisms including our Blue Pacific Principles for Dialogue and Engagement,” Mr Puna said.
“We appreciate that the US came to the table prepared to listen to the views shared and is holding to those Forum Dialogue-Partner principles.”
Pacific Leaders will make their way to Washington in the coming week to engage with President Biden and senior members of his Cabinet, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Senator John Kerry.
The US has really intensified its approach and commitment with the Pacific. There is also more military presence in the region with more naval ships than ever.
There is currently a US military exercise underway in Fiji with defence forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand participating. There is a feeling that post these events, China may attempt a similar audience with the Pacific.