SYDNEY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is disappointed that Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will not attend a Pacific islands summit with U.S. President Joe Biden next week, the White House said on Saturday.
Biden will host a second summit with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum at the White House on Monday as part of his effort to increase engagement in a region where the U.S. is fighting for influence with China.
The summit with the 18-member forum will take place on Monday and Tuesday in Washington.
“We are disappointed that Prime Minister Sogavare of the Solomon Islands does not plan to attend,” a Biden administration official said.
Australian broadcaster ABC reported that Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele would attend the summit instead.
The Solomon Islands prime minister’s office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Sogavare addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday, where he praised China’s development cooperation as “less restrictive, more responsive and focused on our national needs” and said Beijing was its leading infrastructure partner.
Sogavare said he reached an agreement with President Xi Jinping during a China visit to the Solomon Islands in July to achieve development through China’s policies, including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Global Security Initiative.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman will also not attend the meeting, an official from his office told Reuters on Friday, as all MPs in the Vanuatu government must be in parliament on Monday for a vote of no confidence.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Josie Kao)
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