SYDNEY/WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (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 efforts to strengthen engagement with a region where the United States is locked in a battle for influence with China.
The summit is scheduled to be held with the 18-member forum on Monday and Tuesday in Washington.
“We are disappointed that Prime Minister Sogavare of the Solomons does not plan to attend,” a Biden administration official said.
Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Maneli will attend the summit instead, Australian Broadcasting Corporation ABC reported.
The Solomon Islands Prime Minister’s office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Sogavare spoke before the UN General Assembly on Friday in New York where he praised Chinese development cooperation as “less restrictive and more responsive and aligned to our national needs,” and said Beijing is its main infrastructure partner.
Sogavare said he reached an understanding with President Xi Jinping during his visit to China in July to the Solomon Islands 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 because all lawmakers in Vanuatu’s government must come to Parliament on Monday for a vote of no confidence, an official from Vanuatu Prime Minister Satu Kilman’s office told Reuters on Friday.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Kirsty Needham in Sydney – Preparing by Mohammed for the Arab Bulletin) Editing by Josie Cow
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